She was a friend, lover, and confidante of charismatic Spanish American independence hero Simon Bolivar and, after her death, a nationalist icon in her own right. Yet authors generally have chosen either to romanticize Manuela Saenz or to discount her altogether. For Glory and Bolivar: The Remarkable of Life of Manuela Saenz, by contrast, offers a comprehensive and clear-eyed biography of her. Based on unprecedented archival research, it paints a vivid portrait of the Quito-born "Libertadora," revealing both an exceptional figure and a flesh-and-blood person whose life broadly reflected the experiences of women during Spanish America's turbulent Age of Revolution. Already married at the time of her meeting with the famous Liberator, Saenz abandoned her husband in order to become not only Bolivar's romantic companion, but also his official archivist, a member of his inner circle, and one of his most loyal followers. She played a central role in Spanish South America's independence drama and eventually in developments leading to the consolidation of new nations. Pamela Murray, for the first time, closely examines Saenz's political trajectory including her vital, often-overlooked years in exile. She exposes the myths that still surround her. She offers, in short, a nuanced and much-needed historical perspective, one that balances recognition of Saenz's uniqueness with awareness of the broader forces that shaped this dynamic nineteenth-century woman.
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Pamela S. Murray is Professor of History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and author of Dreams of Development: Colombia’s National School of Mines and its Engineers, 1887-1970. She is currently investigating the role of women in Colombia’s nineteenth-century politics.
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