Remembered primarily as the lover of Simón Bolívar, celebrated leader of South America's crusade for independence, Manuela Sáenz was a revolutionary in her own right. Born December 27, 1797 (maybe), in Quito, Ecuador, Manuela participated in the liberation movement before meeting Simón. They met in 1822, after she left her husband in Lima, and returned to Quito. Theirs wasn't just a romantic partnership. She joined him on campaigns, delivering food, medicine, and partaking in combat. She fought in conflicts at Pichincha, Junín, and Ayacucho; at the recommendation of Simón’s second in command, she was presented the rank of colonel. Manuela demonstrated her fidelity again when she prevented Simón’s murder by launching herself at assassins, granting him the chance to escape. Consequently, she was bestowed the nickname, “The Liberator of the Liberator.”
She’s commonly extolled as Latin America’s first noteworthy poet, and first published feminist of the New World. Born November 12, 1651 near Mexico City, Juana Inés de la Cruz revealed her devotion to and immense capacity for learning early on. She was reading and solving equations before five; at eight years old she’d composed her first poem. By the time she reached adolescence, she was conversant in Greek logic, and could speak, read, and write in both Latin and the Aztec language Nahuatl. Actually, her dedication to scholarship was so fanatical, every time she made an error in Latin she chopped-off her hair.
Since Juana’s gender prohibited her from entering university, she concocted a ruse to disguise herself as male. Though her ploy was fruitfulness, Juana’s education continued under the direction of Leonor Carreto, wife of Viceroy Marquis de Mancera. A year later, the viceroy staged an exhibition to demonstrate her scholastic virtuosities. The congregation of academics, theorists, and ecclesiastics were thunderstruck. News of Juana’s cerebral dexterity spread; she became a celebrity at her benefactors’ court and throughout New Spain.
Poetess Gabriela Mistral was Latin America’s first (and thus far only) woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Vicuña, Chile on April 7, 1889, her given name was Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga. At 15 years old, she became a schoolteacher and began composing poetry; several of her early poems concerned the suicide of her lover. Gabriela continued publishing verse as she taught elementary and secondary students in Chile, the United States, and Mexico.
Las Hermanas Mirabal-Patria (b. February 27, 1924), Dedé (b. March 1, 1925), Minerva (b. March 12, 1926), and María Teresa (b. October 15, 1935)-are celebrated, national heroines in their home-country of the Dominican Republic. They challenged dictator Rafael Trujillo’s ruthless autocracy by helping launch the 14th of June Movement. As participants, the women (nicknamed Las Mariposas or The Butterflies) distributed anti-Trujillo pamphlets, ran covert protest meetings, and recruited regime members and/or their families to defect. Consequently, the siblings, and their similarly activist husbands, were incarcerated and tortured on multiple occasions.
Confession time; caught-up in graduate school applications, I neglected to remember September 15th-October 15th was National Hispanic Heritage Month. So, this week I'm going to be posting about some bitchin’ Latina revolutionaries, poetess-scholars, and legislators. I'll be posting fun tidbits about history-making Latinas on Facebook, too. If you've got a favorite history bitch that I've overlooked, please contact me via the comments section or Facebook! And no, I didn’t forget this month is Native American Heritage Month; I'm on it.
October 15th was Ada Lovelace Day, “an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).” Get your nerdy girl groove on with “History, Bitches” by learning about the day’s namesake and four more pioneering lady scientists.
The History Bitch
Podcaster, tea aficionado, Anglophile, 'Game of Thrones' enthusiast.