This article was translated by John R. Bopp
We never had, despite her importance in history. That’s why, after admitting our ignorance, we’re so happy to have learned her story thanks to an article by Coral Aguirre (another New Worlder with an amazing Basque surname) published in the Mexican daily Milenio.
In this article, we got to find out all about the history of this Latin American freedom fighter, born in Chuquisaca, in modern-day Bolivia, whose Basque father was brave enough to marry a mestizo woman, with everything that meant at the end of the 18th century. It’s curious to us to see just how many biographies of this Latin American heroine of independence, even today, define her father as being of “dubious Spanish heritage” (someone’s going to have to explain to us what exactly that means). What we do know, as Coral Aguirre tells us in her article, is that the good relationship her parents had with the indigenous leaders was also shared by Juana herself, and she in turn became one of the leaders of their struggle against the repression of the Royalists and in favor of independence, even while losing her property and her whole family.
It’s a story with a tragic ending, due to the society’s general inability to recognize its heroes in life (especially if they’re women or minorities). For us, as we are always thrilled to find Basque blood in the freedom fighters of Latin America, our satisfaction is even greater, as this person is also a woman with indigenous blood (which makes her an exception in times when rights were denied to women and indigenous people), and as she was so committed to the rights of the indigenous peoples, who are usually passive actors in most of the things that happen to them, even nowadays, and to what is by right their land.
We were also excited to find out that the Argentine Parliament nominated her portrait to be on the 100 peso bill, making her the first woman to appear on Argentine currency; however, we were disappointed, when the decision was finally made to put the portrait of Eva Perón on that bill instead.
Milenio – 19/8/2012 – México
Santa Juana de América la llamó el dramaturgo argentino Andrés Lizárraga, quizás porque en su lucha feroz por las independencias del Sur, era imposible identificarla como argentina. Juana Azurduy, de padre vasco y madre mestiza, nació en 1780 en un pueblito cercano a Chuquisaca en el Alto Perú, en la actualidad Bolivia. Todavía no éramos naciones sino hijos de España dentro del Virreinato del Perú y luego del Virreinato del Río de la Plata. A mí me asombra por su desmesura, tan semejante a una heroína griega, como una suerte de Pentesilea latinoamericana, al tiempo que siento en ella, el fluir de una sangre india, nuestra, rotunda.
Thanks to the comments sent by Juan M. Eliçabe, we can include a song dedicated to Juana Azurduy, sung by Mercedes Sosa