Manuela Sáenz has not suffered the fate of many women throughout history: she has not been forgotten. But the image of her that has lived on, for all its vivid color, is strangely flat. She is remembered as the lover of Simón Bolívar, the renowned leader of South America’s independence from Spain.1 Novels and biographies alike depict her as the passionate beauty to whom Bolívar wrote, “I also want to see you, and examine you and touch you and feel you and savor you and unite you to me through all my senses.”2 Her passions extended into the public sphere, where she dramatically defended the image of Bolívar. When his political protégé, Francisco de Paula Santander, turned rival and displayed satiric statues of Bolívar and Sáenz in a 1830 procession, Sáenz and her servants, dressed as men, charged the parade to remove the effigies.3 Yet, such political...

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