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Manuela Sáenz: South America’s revolutionary heroine

The Ecuadorian woman who fought for South American independence from Spanish colonial rule in the 19th Century

Manuela Sáenz was an Ecuadorian revolutionary who for many years was most famous for her role as the lover of Simón Bolívar - the Venezuelan military leader who secured independence from Spain for a number of countries in South America between 1819-1830. Sáenz left her British husband for Bolívar, or 'The Liberator' as he was known, and famously saved the leader from an assassination attempt, earning her the name 'Libertadora'. But Sáenz was a political force in her own right, receiving various honours for her work for the revolutionary cause. She continued her involvement in politics right to the end of her life while exiled in Peru, acting as a spy and creating a network of informants.

As many countries in what used to be known as 'Gran Colombia' celebrate 200 years of independence from Spain, Bridget Kendall speaks to three experts about Manuela Sáenz's key role in the independence struggle: Pamela Murray, professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of the biography For Glory and Bolívar: The Remarkable Life of Manuela Sáenz; Matthew Brown, professor in Latin American history at the University of Bristol, UK; and Marcela Echeverri, associate professor at Yale University's Department of History in the United States.

(Photo: Portrait of Manuela Sáenz in 1825 by Pedro Durante. Credit: Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú)

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