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Known as the “liberator of the liberator,” Saénz was the mistress of the South American revolutionary leader, Simón Bolivar. She was the illegitimate daughter of a modest family, but learned to read, write, and express herself in a convent until the age of 17 when she was forced to leave because she has been seduced by a number of men. She married a wealthy man and lived as an aristocrat and popular figure in both Quito and Lima, Peru. According to some historians, she can be seen as the most influential woman in Latin American history, more so even than Eva Peron. She met Bolivar in Quito after being an active member in the conspiracy against the viceroy of Peru in 1820. After Bolivar’s death in 1830, Saénz was left with nothing, and Santander exiled her to Jamaica. She tried to return to Ecuador in 1835, but then President Vicente Rocafuerte revoked her passport and she retired to the small coastal town of Paita, Peru. Here, she met American author, Herman Melville, and sold tobacco until her death. When her husband was murdered, she was denied her inheritance by her enemies. She died disabled and her body was buried in a communal mass grave and her belongings, including love letters between her and Bolivar, were burned.




Updated: 9 April 2008

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