Mexico (Mesoamerica)

Chichen Itza, a significant Mayan outpost. Image Credit: Daniel Schwen/WikiCommons.

The area now known as Mexico has encompassed a rich variety of civilisations and cultures across its near 10,000 years of human habitation. Encompassing the Olmec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Purepecha, and Aztec civilisations before its colonisation by the Spanish, the region’s boundaries fluctuated to encompass other areas of Mesoamerica in the premodern world. As such, some of these women ruled over areas outside of present-day Mexico’s boundaries at a time when the civilisations transcended modern geographical borders. Forms of rulership varied from civilisation to civilisation, however it is evident on several occasions that women were able to rule, and rule successfully.

This is a brief overview to place some of the female rulers of the regions now known as Mexico in their context – you can find more about these women below!


Beezley, William, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Mexican History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020

Englehardt, Joshua D., and Michael D. Carrasco. Interregional Interaction in Ancient Mesoamerica. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2019.

Levin Rojo, Danna A., and Cynthia Radding, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Borderlands of the Iberian World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019

Ochoa, Margarita R., and Sara Vicuña Guengerich, eds. Cacicas. The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492-1825. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2021

Standish, Peter. A Companion to Mexican Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2006

Traxler, Loa P., and Robert J. Sharer. The Origins of Maya States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016

Turner, Andrew D., and Michael D. Coe. “A Portrait of Lady K’abal Xook, Queen of Yaxchilan.” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin. Recent Acquisitions (2018): 66-73.

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