The next time you reach for a bottle of Valentina hot sauce, you might want to consider the inspiration behind the name, claims one image circulating on social media.
“Salsa Valentina is named for a 17-year-old girl named Valentina Ramirez Avitia who joined the Maderista Troops dressed as a man in the Mexican Revolution,” reads a Sept. 2 Facebook post.
The young woman, the post goes on to claim, rose to the rank of lieutenant but was expelled when her identity as a woman was eventually discovered.
Because of Avitia’s similarities to the Disney character Mulan – who disguises herself to join the Chinese Imperial Army – the post asserts, “Mexico had its own Mulan.”
Accompanying the post are four images, one of Valentia brand hot sauce, a certificate presumably proving Avitia’s existence and military admission, and two black-and-white images of individuals wearing wide-brimmed hats and bandoliers across their chests.
While one of the black-and-white images has been associated with Avitia, USA TODAY could not confirm its authenticity.
The post and similar ones have racked up thousands of interactions across Facebook within the last few weeks, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool.
A story of Mexico’s Mulan might just sound like marketing for a hot sauce brand, but Avitia the person – and her tale – are indeed true.
USA TODAY has reached out the Facebook users for comment.
A farmer’s daughter turned revolutionary
Born on Feb. 14, 1893, Avitia grew up a farmer’s daughter in the small town of El Norotal, about 500 miles northwest of Mexico City.
In November 1910, when Avitia was 17, a revolutionary effort to overthrow dictator Porfirio Díaz broke out in Mexico. Díaz, who ruled over the country for 31 years as its president, had originally seized power in 1877. Mexico developed economically and commercially under his rule, but Díaz’s long tenure and the country’s growing socio-economic inequalities slowly lead to widespread civil discontent.
Avitia’s father enlisted but was soon killed in action. Wanting to fight herself and honor her father’s memory, Avitia joined the Maderista Army, named after Franciso Madero, a landowning lawyer who instigated the revolution against Díaz.
Since Mexican women were not allowed to join the army, Avitia wore her brother’s clothes, hid her braided hair under a hat and changed her name to Juan Ramirez.
She was eventually was made a lieutenant, but her military career came to an end after a fellow soldier discovered her identity. The army did commend Avitia for her bravery, but she was expelled after serving for a little over five months.
The former revolutionary lived a fairly long and quiet life thereafter, although her final years were marred by tragedy. A car accident in 1969 left her disabled and losing her home to fire sometime later left her destitute. She died at age 86 in 1979 and was buried in a common grave in Culiacán, Mexico.
Avitia’s service inspires hot sauce founder
Despite seemingly fading into obscurity, Avitia was never forgotten and remained a lauded figure in Mexican history.
In the 1960s, Manuel Maciel Méndez, a native of Tamazula de Giordiano, created a line of hot sauces named after his hometown, called Tamazula.
The hot sauce’s growing popularity in Mexico encouraged Méndez to introduce a second product named Salsa Valentina. Mendez was moved by Avitia’s heroism and had the hot sauce christened after her as a tribute, company spokesperson Guillermo Sanchez said in an email to USA TODAY.
Based on our research, the claim Salsa Valentina hot sauce is named after a girl who fought in a Mexican revolution dressed as a man is true.
Avitia fought during the 1910 Mexican Revolution while disguised as a man but was expelled after her real identity was discovered. She went on to become a lauded figure in Mexican history and inspired the creator of Salsa Valentina to name his hot sauce after her.