Latin American women anti-Spanish colonialism fighters

This video says about itself:

La Comandante Saenz reveals the life of the influential and controversial Latin-American heroine & feminist icon Manuela Saenz, who gave everything for the dream of freedom while fighting during the wars of independence from the Spanish crown, in the 1830s. With personal testimonies from women who emulate her today in the guerrilla movements and the military, and from her descendants and historians, La Comandante Saenz opens a window into the history and legacy of this chaotic period in a contemporary journey to uncover her influential and controversial life. In an age when women’s roles were so limited, Manuela strode out wearing military uniform. She became a colonel in the army of liberation and rode the length of the Andes, fighting alongside men. She risked, and lost all for her ideals, for her love of South America and for her lover, Simon Bolivar the liberator.

From her childhood and throughout her whole life, which even history itself has tried to obliterate, Manuela has today been totally vindicated, and during the last stages of our post-production, Manuela Saenz was posthumously awarded the military grade of General, a unique honour to be granted to a woman two hundred years after her death. La Comandante Saenz shows us a beautiful, controversial, intrepid, rebellious, ingenious, strong and totally independent woman. Ideologically committed to the dream of Latin-American autonomy, Manuela had a greatly influential political force.

La Comandante Saenz follows the trail that the liberators took, and goes to the spectacular places in which they fought for their dream of freedom. La Comandante Saenz is the history of a spy, a lover, a fighter, an influential politician, of Manuela Saenz, a woman whose life continues to cause controversy, but, more importantly, inspires the thousands of women who are driven by her legacy today

From IPS news agency:

LATIN AMERICA: Women in History – More than Just Heroines

By Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Sep 8 – Juana Azurduy or Manuela Sáenz, Bartolina Sisa or Gertrudis Bocanegra, Luisa Cáceres or Policarpa Salavarrieta – these heroines attest to the participation of women in the struggle for Latin America’s independence from Spain, a revolutionary movement that began two centuries ago this year.

But at the same time, their celebration embodies the shroud that political and historical accounts have thrown over the countless unnamed women who fought or suffered in the quarter-century long process spanning from 1809 to 1824, like in so many other periods of history.

On Jul. 14, Argentine president Cristina Fernández granted Lieutenant Colonel Juana Azurduy (1780-1862) a posthumous promotion to the rank of general. Azurduy lost five of her six children while she fought for the independence of Upper Peru, present-day Bolivia, which at the end of the colonial period was part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata and under the direction of Buenos Aires.

Two years earlier, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa had also granted a posthumous promotion to general to another revolutionary woman, Manuela Sáenz (1797-1856), who is known in history as the “immortal love” of Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) and who held the rank of colonel in the liberation army.

Correa’s promotion was granted as part of the commemoration of the anniversary of the 1822 Battle of Pichincha, in which the Quito-born heroine fought.

“That’s not history, it’s politics,” Inés Quintero, assistant director of the Venezuelan Academy of History, told IPS. “The role of women in the movement for independence is not vindicated by granting a title to an individual woman. That makes no sense, because history is not about settling scores,” she argued.

Instead, the researcher said, “as women’s issues pay off in terms of the visibility that women are demanding, there are certain icons – these heroines – that are incorporated as part of the rhetoric, to give the impression that something is being done about the situation of women.”

For Sara Beatriz Guardia, of the Peruvian Centre for Studies on Women in the History of Latin America, “a change in rhetoric can be observed, which is prompted by the importance that the study of the role of women in history has gained in recent decades.” The trend fits right in with the series of “bicentennial cycle” celebrations that began this year evoking the first revolutionary uprisings, which occurred in 1809 in Quito and La Paz. The celebrations will continue over the coming years with the commemoration of the declarations and battles of Spanish America’s campaigns for independence.

This process, and the bloody confrontations that marked it, was ushered in by early movements in the late 18th century, some of which had an undeniable female involvement and their fair share of heroines, which official historiography in some cases highlights and in others obscures.

One example of these early female independence fighters is Micaela Bastidas (1745-1781), wife of Túpac Amaru II (José Gabriel Condorcanqui, 1738-1781), who fought beside him in the great rebellion he led in Peru in 1780. When the uprising was stifled, they were both executed on the same day, along with the lesser-known Tomasa Condemayta, captain of the women’s battalion, which had defeated the Spanish troops in several battles.

Another is Bartolina Sisa (1753-1782), Aymara heroine and wife of Túpac Katarí (Julián Apaza, 1750-1781), a rebel leader who mobilised 40,000 Indians against the Spanish crown in Upper Peru in the early 1780s.

Sisa led troops into battle and exhibited skills as a strategist when the Aymara foces laid siege to the cities of Sorata and La Paz. When the movement was defeated, Sisa was savagely tortured and finally hung.

“Later, the Creoles (white European descendants) gained the independence that was vital for them to further their interests, and the uprisings that had been led by Indians were played down and forgotten, even though they had shaken the foundations of the colonial system,” Guardia notes in her essay “Las mujeres y la recuperación de la historia” (Women and the Recovery of History).

Moreover, “the participation of these women was erased, as if their gender – even though they gave their lives for their people – somehow made their actions less meaningful and less important than those of the heroes of our history, who were all male,” the Peruvian researcher added.

The participation of many women also stood out once the Creole wars for independence broke out. Women like Manuela Cañizares (1769-1815), who hosted the meeting in which the Quito revolutionaries issued the first “cry for freedom” in 1809, or María Ignacia Rodríguez (1765-1817), who supported the patriots in Mexico.

Gertrudis Bocanegra (1765-1817) organised a network of Mexican insurgents. When she was captured by the Spanish, she refused to betray the patriots even under torture. In the end, she was executed by the Royalists, as the forces loyal to the Spanish crown were known.

Women of this period pushed their fathers, sons, brothers, husbands or boyfriends to embrace the cause of independence. Like the Chilean Javiera Carrera (1781-1862), who although an adversary of national hero Bernardo O’Higgins, was part of the patriot movement.

Or the Nueva Granada (Colombia) native Policarpa Salavarrieta, a great underground independence fighter, who was shot to death by a firing squad in Bogotá in 1817, along with her boyfriend, Alejo Sabaraín.

Venezuela’s most famous heroine is Luisa Cáceres (1799-1866), wife of General Juan Bautista Arismendi, who the Spanish tried to break by imprisoning the young Cáceres under atrocious conditions, while she was pregnant. She miscarried and was held prisoner for two years, from 1814 to 1816, before she was finally banished.

Many women were outstanding soldiers, like Azurduy, who fought in guerrilla warfare and participated in major battles, including the battles of Ayohuma (1813), Potosí and La Laguna (both in 1816), where she was injured and saw her husband, Manuel Padilla, die as he tried to rescue her.

Sáenz fought in the battle of Pichincha, which paved the way for Bolívar’s troops to march into Peru. She accompanied Bolívar in his campaigns and political efforts, and after preventing an attempt on his life by opponents in Bogotá in 1828, she began to be known as “the liberator’s liberator.”

But many more women participated throughout the entire war, providing support in the rear, in logistics, and as soldiers. As the late Venezuelan historian Vinicio Romero told this reporter in an earlier interview, in the 1821 battle of Carabobo, dozens of women were thought to have died on both sides of the battlefield.

Women had a significant participation in the troops in Mexico, and in the Colombian army (which covered the territory of present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela). In the Andean sub-region, indigenous communities, including women, were incorporated into the war efforts.

Thousands of indigenous women followed the trail of Argentine General Juan Álvarez de Arenales (1770-1831), José de San Martín’s (1778-1850) deputy, during the 1819-1820 campaign in the Peruvian Andes.

History that ignores women

Even popular literature reflects the pivotal role that women have played in wars throughout history. “There’s hardly been a war in which women did not participate,” Swedish journalist and novelist Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) wrote as a foreword for the last novel in his “Millennium” trilogy, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”, published posthumously this year.

As an example, the best-selling author mentioned that in the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), there were an estimated 600 women soldiers, who dressed up as men to fight.

In a remark that could very well apply to the revolutionary wars of Spanish America, Larsson noted that history books have always had a hard time talking about women who don’t respect the boundary that separates the sexes, and at no other time is this boundary so sharply delineated as when a war breaks out or weapons are involved.

The official version of Chilean history renders women’s political participation “invisible” and relegates them to a secondary or anecdotal role, says journalist Cherie Zalaquett, author of a new book, “Chilenas en armas” (Chilean Women in Arms): here.

Colombian women workers strike for survival: here.

4 thoughts on “Latin American women anti-Spanish colonialism fighters

  1. 75 years: Bolivian president overthrown in coup

    Bolivian President Daniel Salamanca is overthrown in a coup d’etat on November 27, 1934. Salamanca is imprisoned by General Enrique Peñaranda and his officers while visiting their headquarters in Villamontes, following the president’s attempt to replace Peñaranda as commander of the armed forces.

    The coup takes place in the midst of the Chaco War, waged between Bolivia and Paraguay for control of the Gran Chaco region of South America, which spans large sections of the two countries and smaller parts of Argentina and Brazil.

    Behind the war is the question of oil and great power politics. US oil giant Standard Oil has major holdings in Bolivia, and its British-owned rival Dutch Shell has its own holdings in Paraguay and Argentina.

    When oil is also found at the foothills of the Andes, prompting many to believe the Gran Chaco region might also be rich in oil, the importance of controlling the area is only intensified.

    The resulting war to secure the strategic Gran Chaco region by South American surrogates of US and British capital is the deadliest conflict fought in the Americas in decades.

    Tensions between President Salamanca and the Bolivian military high command escalate as the war turns in Paraguay’s favor, culminating in the coup of November 27. Installed as the country’s next president is Salamanca’s vice president, José Luis Tejada.


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