This article looks at the ways in which Spanish American women exploited the political and social turmoil of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to move beyond their traditional sphere of influence in the home. Women directly participated in the Túpac Amaru Rebellion (1780–1781) and in the Wars of Independence (1810–1825) providing funding, food supplies, infrastructure and reinforcements for the troops, and nursing the wounded. Others contributed by taking part in the physical fighting (both openly and disguised as men) and a few led troops into battle. This article looks at some of the individuals behind the statistics and reveals their determination to participate despite the punishments imposed on women found guilty of disloyalty to the Spanish crown. Spanish colonial law had to be amended to ensure that women dissidents were given as equally harsh sentences as men. In the immediate post-independence period, rather than be seen as misfits or a threat to the patriarchal system, several of these women were given national awards.
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Extract from a letter said to be from Bastidas, dated Tungasuca, 6 December 1780, quoted in Cornejo Bouroncle (1949: 53–54). Although there is no reason to doubt Cornejo Bouroncle, I can not claim the letter is authentic. Cornejo Bouroncle reproduces it with several others to and from Bastidas and Túpac Amaru, but he does not provide sources. June Hahner (1980: 35–37) also quotes from this letter. She gives her source as Francisco A. Loáyza (1945: 48–51).
Other letters from Bastidas to Túpac Amaru are addressed ‘my son Pepe’ and ‘son of my heart’. One dated February 1781 is signed ‘your Mica’. See Cornejo Bouroncle (1949: 49–78).
Cornejo Bouroncle (1949: 105, 112–113). Letters to Bastidas dated 4 and 9 December 1780.
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‘Representación que hace el bello sexo al gobierno de Barinas’ (Representation made by the fair sex to the government of Barinas), Gazeta de Caracas (5 November 1811: 3–4). Letter dated 18 October 1811. The Gazeta de Caracas was then in the hands of the patriots. Remarkably, publication of this paper continued almost uninterrupted during the 12 years of war. It took the spelling Gaceta when the royalists were in control of Caracas, changing to Gazetafor the patriots.
Letter from Antonio Berrutti, dated 13 August 1816 to Manuel Belgrano, General of the Peruvian Army (Urquidi, 1918: 106).
For a list of all the women who received this award, see Gaceta del Gobierno de Lima Independiente (23 January 1822: 3–4).
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The research for this study was made possible by funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board. I thank Keith Brewster and the anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments.
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Brewster, C. women and the Spanish-American Wars of Independence: an overview. Fem Rev 79, 20–35 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.fr.9400200