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103 five Exile and Vindication, 1835–1845 the ecuadorian government’s refusal to rescind its order left Manuela Sáenz with no alternative. She retraced her steps to Guayaquil and, toward the middle of November 1835, boarded a ship for Peru and exile. Although she probably had Lima in mind as her ultimate destination, she disembarked at the ship’s first main stop: the northern Peruvian port of Paita. The sight of Paita at first must have been less than inspiring. While set against a dramatic backdrop— at the edge of a bay bordered by a 150-foot-high bluff and beyond it a desert plain—the town itself was small and gray. It sat on the protected southern side of the bay, dwarfed by a great promontory, the Silla de Paita. One contemporary visitor described it as “without exception the most uninviting desolate spot that human beings ever selected for a habitation.”1 The hot, dusty port nevertheless had its allure. Thanks to the impact of the growing New England–based whaling industry, it was relatively prosperous, having become the center of a bustling service economy and brisk importexport trade that attracted enterprising individuals. It harbored an interesting mix of foreign and native-born residents, including a number of Sáenz’s compatriots . It offered refuge. Here Sáenz would form a new circle of friends. She would rebuild her life, injecting it with new meaning and purpose. Above all, T4770.indb 103 T4770.indb 103 8/12/08 11:19:25 AM 8/12/08 11:19:25 AM 104 for glory and bolívar she would seek to overcome the isolation and ignominy to which her exile seemingly had consigned her. Sáenz’s arrival in Paita coincided with the start of a dynamic new phase in the small town’s history. Although it long had been an important stop for ships sailing between Lima and Panama (as well as a center of contraband trade for much of the Spanish colonial period), Paita by the mid-1830s had become an outpost of what William Lofstrom has called an “incipient North Atlantic economic empire .”2 Its deep, sheltered bay, the best in northern Peru, had helped transform it into a vital port of call for New England whalers—ships that roamed Pacific waters in search of the valuable sperm whale. The year 1835 alone witnessed the arrival of eighty-eight whalers, an unprecedented number, along with twentyone American merchant ships, most of them from Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts.3 The town catered to the various needs of these vessels, supplying them with fresh water, firewood, food (meat and produce brought in from farms of the nearby Chira Valley), liquor, and provisions such as soap, salt, sugar, and tobacco. It provided them with a variety of naval stores, including rope, tar, pitch, and locally made sailcloth. It also catered to its Yankee visitors’ need for rest and entertainment. Beyond the old marketplace and parish church of San Francisco on the eastern side of town, for instance, was the Maintope Lithograph of nineteenth-century Paita, from A. de la Salle, Voyage autor du monde . . . , Album historique (Paris: Bertrand, 1840–1866). Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. T4770.indb 104 T4770.indb 104 8/12/08 11:19:25 AM 8/12/08 11:19:25 AM exile and vindication 105 district, a neighborhood known for its numerous bars (pulperías), billiard halls, and brothels frequented by sailors. The general growth of trade and business had produced new signs of prosperity . One indication lay in the new, fancier homes that were increasingly visible . Although most houses in Paita still were simple huts with dirt floors and walls built of mud and split bamboo (bajareque), a small but growing number boasted two stories and included amenities such as plaster façades, balconies, and barred windows.4 Paita’s growth and prosperity also had enlarged the number and variety of its permanent residents. By 1836, the year after Sáenz’s arrival, its population had grown to about four thousand. It included some fifty to sixty Americans and Europeans, most of them merchants who had come to participate in the port’s brisk import-export trade, a few of them officials attached to the local British, U.S., Portuguese, Spanish, and French consulates.5 It incorporated an indeterminate number of Ecuadorians, many of them transients. The Ecuadorian presence in Paita was not...


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