Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made history this week when he removed the restriction on women fighting in combat in American wars.
Many countries in Latin America, however, took that step years ago, Spanish news wire EFE reports. Despite the region’s reputation for “machismo,” a uniquely Latin form of sexism, women are permitted to fight alongside men in seven countries, though it rarely happens in practice.
Latin American countries don’t fight nearly as many wars as the United States. Peru and Ecuador fought the last inter-state war in Latin America over a territorial dispute back in 1995.
The United States, by contrast, has fought wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and bombing campaigns in Yemen and Pakistan -- all during the Obama administration alone.
Historically, Latin American militaries have seen more activity within their own borders than outside them. Today, Colombia continues to fight a half-century-old guerrilla insurgency, while in Mexico the military is locked in a fierce fight with drug cartels that has left more than 60,000 people dead since 2006.
Check out the seven Latin American countries that allow women in combat in the slideshow above.