Screening of Manuelita Sáenz. La Libertadora del Libertador (Diego Rísquez, Venezuela, 2000, 97 min.), proposed by PedroMari Urrutikoetxea and followed by discussion.

Talk of Latin American pro-independence struggles or struggles against Spanish colonialism seldom mentions the contribution of women, but women were a part of them. The female cacique Urquía, for instance, played an important part in as a military commander in early anti-colonial struggles by Caribbean Native Americans. Likewise, Luisa Arranbide had a very active role in the first Venezuelan movements for independence and was taken prisoner by the Spanish government, then stripped naked and whipped in a public square in the centre of Caracas. During the War of Independence, Luisa Cáceres, the wife of General Arismendi, was taken prisoner and abused on Isla Margarita, Venezuela. Some guerilla group leaders were also women, such as Policarpa Salavarrieta in Colombia and Juanita Azurduy in Argentina and Bolivia.

But the most important of these women was probably MANUELITA SÁENZ DE BERGARA Y AIZPURU, the daughter of a top Spanish civil servant, born in Ecuador. Manuelita was given a well-rounded education for the time and married an English doctor, Dr. Thorne, who worked in Quito. When the War of Independence began, she became a fully-fledged member of the movement, and soon after met Simón Bolivar, whose wife had died some years earlier. They fell in love and began an intense relationship that earned Manuelita the name LA LIBERTADORA DEL LIBERTADOR (The liberator of the liberator). Their relationship lasted for eight years until Bolívar’s oligarch enemies managed to depose him and marginalise him in Santa Marta. Manuelita was exiled in Paita, a village on the south coast of Peru.

Bolívar died months afterwards, and Manuelita lived to the age of seventy-one in her village of exile, where she died.

This film tells the story of Manuelita’s life.

I’m PedroMari Urrutikoetxea and am Basque and Venezuelan. I’ve been in Euskal Herria for more than thirty years, but before that I lived in Venezuela for many years, where I was a member of different rebel movements after 1964.

I’ve also lived and worked in other countries.

I wanted to show this film because I think Manuelita is someone who deserves to be known.