Email Icon - Elements Webflow Library - BRIX Templates

Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter!

Check - Elements Webflow Library - BRIX Templates
Thanks for joining our newsletter
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Of Love Letters and the Usefulness of Second Languages

History Hans
September 18, 2021

Although Manuela Saenz recently won official recognition as a true heroine of the South American Wars for Independence, she is still in many ways considered just a footnote in history compared to her paramour Simon Bolivar. Both Manuela and Simon lived extraordinary romantic lives, however, one could argue that Manuela’s life inspires more fascination and admiration. As the lover and savior (she was coined by Simon with the epithet “Libertadora del Libertador” when she saved his life on more than one occasion) of perhaps the most famous of all South Americans, she eventually ended up in backwater Peru living in dire poverty translating love letters for English speaking whalers who were pursuing Latina lovers. Oh the vicissitudes! 

Manuela Saenz’s biography is well documented, and she is also colorfully depicted in one of the greatest of historical novels: Garcia Marquez’s The General in His Labyrinth. She rose from humble and “illegitimate” status (she was a bastard) to a legend, all within the context of patriarchal Spanish colonialism. Fiercely independent and brave, her heroism on the battlefield earned the rank of colonel in the Independence army, an achievement unprecedented in the early 19th century.  Her intelligence and beauty enchanted Simon Bolivar. They spent eight adventurous years together. Yet, once independence from Spain was assured, endemic factionalism destroyed Bolivar’s dream of a united South America. Bolivar had fallen out of favor, and he died most likely of tuberculosis in Santa Marta, Colombia while attempting to flee to Europe. As a “persona non grata”, Manuela was exiled first to Jamaica, but eventually made her way to coastal Peru where she sold tobacco and used her English fluency to translate for English and US sailors (she had been forced to marry an English merchant earlier in her life). She died in penury in 1856.  

Fortunately, many of Simon and Manuela’s love letters are preserved, which make for great reading and activities for language and history students! Having taught history and occasionally ESL for over twenty years, I have learned that one of the essential starting points for effective teaching and learning is first to engage the student. Combining historical context (especially when the history is juicy and tantalizing) with language acquisition undoubtedly motivates students. So the next time you are looking for material for a good lesson, look no further than the passionate exchanges between Simon Bolivar and Manuela Saenz.

Create your free Account today to get started

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn