BRAWLEY — Local artist Pablo Garcia unveiled his piece “La Valentina” to the world at a small opening at the Brawley Public Library Thursday evening. Based on the life of Dolores Ramirez Vasquez, a woman who served in Pancho Villa’s rebel army, the painting honors the life of a unique and strong woman in history, just in time for Women’s History Month.
La Valentina was born in Mexico on March 4, 1880 and was one of many women who joined Pancho Villa’s army in 1910 in their campaign in the Mexican Revolutionary war. She was known to nurse the wounded and even fight herself. It’s been told that Vasquez encouraged many men to get back out onto the battle field.
“She would challenge their manhood as they were retreating and encourage them to go back and continue fighting,” said Judy Grant, one of the library committee members who presented a background on “La Valentina.”
Vasquez eventually made her way to Calexico in the Imperial Valley and would travel back and forth between the United States and her home in Mexico. In the early 1990s, she was moved to the Royal Convalescent Home in Brawley where she lived the rest of her days until she died at 111 in 1996.
Garcia heard about Vasquez and her role in history from a friend he worked with at the Imperial Irrigation District. But the artist said he did not really believe the story that she rode with Pancho Villa. Shortly after that, Vasquez gave an interview with a local newspaper about her life.
Garcia said he was inspired to paint a picture of her life after reading the interview, and spent many hours in the Brawley Public Library hunting down information on the era and anything he could get about Vasquez herself. Regrettably, the artist did not get a chance to meet Vasquez in person, but he was still determined to paint something with her life in mind.
His painting has a portrait of Vasquez late in her life in the middle surrounded by the face and hands of a clock. Each section of the clock depicts a different scene that would have taken place during the era of the revolution ranging from Pancho Villa’s army fighting to families starving in the streets. Other sections of the art work picture Vasquez among the soldiers caring for the men and walking tall at the head of the army column like many other women did. Garcia also included personal touches of his own, such as family and friends along with Biblical images.
“I like to share my artwork with my friends, family and community,” said Garcia.
Garcia said he wanted to present the finished painting at the Brawley Public Library because it was where he spent so many hours researching the era of La Valentina. It was also perfect for the beginning of Women’s History Month of March, a month-long celebration of the impact of women on history.
The painting will be on display at the Brawley Public Library for a couple of weeks before being moved to another location.