Manuela Sáenz Biography

Manuela Saenz, the iconic South American revolutionary, played a crucial role in the liberation of New Granada. As the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, Saenz’s unconventional birth did not hinder her determination to fight for freedom. Married at a young age, she found herself immersed in the world of army personnel and influential politicians, which fueled her passion for revolution. Inspired by the leadership of Simon Bolivar, Saenz left her husband and relocated to Quito to actively support the cause. Her unwavering dedication made her one of the most significant figures in the revolution. Despite facing exile after Bolivar’s death, Saenz remains a revered pillar of the revolution to this day.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Doña Manuela Sáenz de Vergara y Aizpuru
  • Died At Age: 60
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: James Thorne
    • Partner: Simón Bolívar
  • Spies
  • Revolutionaries
  • Died on: November 23, 1856
  • Place of Death: Paita District, Peru
  • Cause of Death: Diphtheria

Childhood & Early Life

Dona Manuela Saenz was born on December 27, 1797 in Quito in present day Ecuador. She was an illegitimate child born to Maria Joaquina Aizpuru, a native woman, and Simon Saenz Vergara, a nobleman from Spain.

Manuela Saenz’s mother’s family severed ties with her mother and Saenz lived with her father during her childhood. She studied at the Convent of Saint Catalina where she received basic education but her time at school was brought to an end when she was 17 years old. She was seduced by an army officer and the school decided to throw her out.

Career

During Manuela Saenz’s time in Lima, several politicians as well as army personnel visited her household and she came to know about the revolution in relation to the liberation of New Granada. In 1820, she joined the secret movement to overthrow the viceroy of Peru at the time and Simon Bolivar’s work in New Granada proved to be the inspiration.

Manuela Saenz separated from her husband James Thorne in 1822 and moved to Quito in order to be close to Simon Bolivar. The couple exchanged letters and were in a romantic relationship straightaway. She became a key ally in Bolivar’s revolutionary efforts and helped him in every way possible.

Manuela Saenz went with Simon Bolivar to Lima and lived together for a year starting from 1825; however, Bolivar had to leave due to his commitment to the revolution. Saenz eventually shifted her base to Bogota to be together with Bolivar and a few years later saved him from being assassinated.

In 1830, Simon Bolivar died while he was making his way out of Colombia and thereafter Manuela Saenz was all on her own. Francisco de Paula Santander took charge of the country after Bolivar’s death and sent Saenz to Jamaica in exile. Five years later, she tried to come back to Ecuador but her passport was revoked and instead she started living in Paita, a small town in northern part of Peru.

The last years of her life were an unhappy one as she had very little money and survived by selling tobacco and translating letters for people. She was even denied the inheritance that she was entitled to following the murder of her husband James Thorne.

Major Works

Manuela Saenz was an integral part of the struggle to liberate New Granada under the leadership of Simon Bolivar and played a key role in the movement.

Personal Life & Legacy

Manuela Saenz got married to James Thorne, a rich merchant in 1817 but she left him five years later. They had no children.

Manuela Saenz also had a romantic relationship with Simon Bolivar from 1822 till the latter’s death in 1830. They did not have any children either. Manuela Saenz died on November 23, 1856 due to diphtheria in Paita, Peru.

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