In 1839, the Scottish explorer Frances “Fanny” Erskine Inglis, later known as Fanny Calderón, took a somewhat controversial road trip.
Her travels through Mexico, which she documented through letters collected in her 1843 book, Life in Mexico, formed one of the earliest and most influential European travel narratives about Latin America. The book, the only narrative at the time written by a woman, was controversial in Mexico. Erskine ended up a consultant of sorts with the US government ahead of the Mexican-American war.
The controversy over the book was twofold. Her writing deployed a somewhat proto-feminist critique of Mexico’s male elite, and the violence of the revolution. But it was also decried as imperialist, because her writing takes the position that Spain was essential to Mexico’s existence.
It’s a fascinating story and discussion, contextualizing some of the themes running through our political discourse today. Thanks to User:Cmartlover, from David Sartorius’s Travel Writing in the Americas course at the University of Maryland, College Park, the world has a deeper understanding of those who shaped the United States’ view of Mexico. That student expanded Calderón’s biography to cover the book in greater depth, and then built a brand new article for Life in Mexico with all of the resources she found.
This is just one great example of the kinds of work students can do that deepen Wikipedia’s coverage of history, literature, and women’s lives. We’re looking to create more great examples! If you’d like to inspire your students and expand the horizons of open knowledge, we’d love to hear from you. Start a conversation by emailing us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Mexico in 1838 by DigbyDalton – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.