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131 six Finding Home, circa 1845–1856 with the triumph of Ecuador’s March 1845 revolution and the fall of Juan José Flores, Manuela Sáenz turned away from the world of politics, a world that, until then, had been dominated by men she knew personally. She had grown tired and disillusioned. One sign of this was her reaction the previous year to news of Vivanco’s defeat by his rivals. “You must know [by now] that the Vivanco affair has ended, miserably,” she wrote Flores, going on to characterize Peru’s seemingly endless cycle of civil war and caudillo conflict as little more than “a [ridiculous] farce or madman’s contra dance.” What a wonder it was that “poor” Peru still happened to possess a few “[decent] men of character,” she added with a certain disgusted weariness.1 The Libertadora also claimed to be unimpressed, overall, by the caliber of the region’s political leaders. “No government head is loved or feared by me,” she confessed to her nation’s president, noting, however, that, as in his case, if a particular magistrate happened to be a friend of hers, she did, “watch out for him” and, in her “[own] small way,” seek to “promote . . . his aggrandizement.” Most leaders, nevertheless, seemed “unremarkable and even contemptible.”2 Sáenz’s opinions reflected, in part, disappointment over the fate of old friends and allies as well as chagrin over the return to power of antagonists like Vicente T4770.indb 131 T4770.indb 131 8/12/08 11:19:30 AM 8/12/08 11:19:30 AM 132 for glory and bolívar Ramón Roca, the latter destined to become president the year after Flores’s exile. They also reveal a skepticism born of observation and personal experience . Although Sáenz would continue to follow her nation’s fortunes, she would abandon her former efforts to influence them through active support for one or another public figure. “No one speaks to me of politics,” she would remark to a friend six years later, adding with a hint of resignation that, in that sphere of endeavor, she did not “meddle.”3 She also had become preoccupied with more private matters. One of these was her health, including the impact of a recent leg or hip injury. Sáenz seldom spoke of the injury. Indeed, her extant correspondence makes no mention of it—a reticence that may have stemmed partly from pride and from a belief that, as she once told a friend, “frequent complaining tends to chase away compassion .”4 A January 30, 1842, letter to Flores does allude to one of the injury’s main consequences as it mentions, perhaps for the first time, its author’s “inability to move” herself or to get about normally. This problem was to be confirmed by close friends and acquaintances. In the course of courtroom testimony some six years later, for example, Sáenz’s lawyer, Cayetano Freyre, informed the judge that his client had “dislocated” a hipbone, a circumstance that obliged her to spend most of her day in a hammock.5 Other evidence confirms that Sáenz had become permanently disabled. This evidence includes the recollections of the famous Italian nationalist leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, who in 1851 (having been recently exiled from his native Italy), stopped off in Paita while en route to Lima. Sáenz—not one to miss an opportunity to meet with such a dashing personage—apparently invited him to her home. Garibaldi would later recall his hostess’s charm and graciousness as well as a pleasant half day spent lying on her sofa while listening to stories about the Liberator. He also would remember her as an “invalid,” noting that she had lost the “use of her legs” and had been “confined to her bed for several years,” a situation he attributed to “a paralytic stroke.”6 After a visit to Paita in the mid1850s , when he was still a young man, Peruvian writer Ricardo Palma would describe Sáenz similarly. He recalled seeing her, by then in her late fifties, seated “majestically” in a large leather wheelchair and described her as “a heavyset lady [with] the liveliest of black eyes . . . round face and genteel hand” who, for many years, had been “crippled.” His recollection also suggests that Sáenz’s condition may have been aggravated in her later years by a tendency toward obesity.7 Sáenz’s disability—and resulting...


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MARC Record
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