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‘Loca’ or ‘Libertadora’?: Manuela Sáenz in the Eyes of History and Historians, 1900–c.1990


This article traces the historiography of the romantic yet poorly understood mistress, friend and political ally of Simón Bolívar: Manuela Sáenz Aizpuru de Thorne (1797–1856). It highlights two opposing schools of interpretation on Sáenz: the ‘bad girl’ and ‘heroine’ schools. Nationalism and the cult of Bolívar (especially among Venezuelan and Ecuadorean authors), have combined with the later influence of revolutionary socialist and feminist ideas to ensure the predominance of the latter and, thus, of an heroic-mythic view of Sáenz. Yet scholars' efforts to recover the historical woman have challenged this view and, above all, paved the way for a more nuanced, gender-conscious understanding of Sáenz's role and significance.

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The author would like to thank Dr J. León Helguera for his advice and moral support during the early stage of research for this article, Dr Angela Thompson for insightful commentary on a previous draft presented at the 1997 SECOLAS meeting in San José, Costa Rica, and, last but not least, the anonymous readers of JLAS for their valuable criticism.
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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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