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María Leona Martín Vicario Fernández de Quintana Roo

Other names/titles:
Gender: F
Ethnic origin: White

Biographical details

Born in Mexico City in April 1789, she was the niece of Juan Bautista Raz y Guzmán. They were both members of the Sociedad de los Guadalupes, and cousin of Manuel Fernández de San Salvador. She helped in the escape of several gun makers and smuggled mail for the insurgents. (Gueda, a, 380-381)

It is claimed that out of love for her husband, Andrés Quintana Roo, and the Independence cause, she took arms from the Maestranza to send to the Independence troops. She took part in several campaigns. She was captured and held in the college Belem de las Mochas, but escaped to join Morelos in the hope of being reunited with her husband. She was recaptured, but in 1822 she and Quintana Roo were recompensed. (Domenella, 369.)

She was a member of Los Guadalupes, a clandestine group that operated in many areas used to obtain information about royalist activities. (Lynch, 310)

She translated Fénélon’s Télémaque, at the time of her imprisonment in 1813 and admitted to have read several books prohibited by the Inquisition.

Other versions maintain that left an orphan, Vicario defied her royalist uncle and guardian and gave much of her fortune to the rebel cause. She bought and smuggled arms to them, sent them coded information, and recruited soldiers. In March 1813 she was imprisoned, and her property confiscated. She escaped from prison to join Morelos’s army in Oaxaca. There she married Andrés Quintana Roo, her uncle’s former law clerk. She rode with the army, helped plan strategies, administered its finances and looked after the injured. On 3 January 1817 she gave birth to her first child in a cave in Achipixtla. She was declared a national heroine. After Independence she was granted a hacienda and 3 houses in Mexico City as compensation for her losses/ contribution. In 1828, the town of Saltillo was temporarily renamed Leona Vicario. When she died Santa Ana led the funeral procession. (Arrom, 22; 37-38.)

After Independence, Vicario dedicated herself to her husband and her 2 children, the poor and the church. But on 2 February 1831 she met President Bustamente and asked him to protect her husband, whose life she believed to be in danger due to his opposition to the government. The newspaper El Sol then accused Vicario of insulting the president and described her as Quintana Roo’s attorney (to insult Quintana Roo). Lucas Alamán then claimed that she’d been motivated by love of Quintana Roo and not the Independence cause during the Independence Wars. She defended herself in Quintana Roo’s paper, El Federalistas. Carlos María de Bustamente defended her saying that it was she who’d persuaded Quintana Roo to the rebels’ cause. Timothy Anna claims Vicario protested in person to Vice-President Bustamente that four military officers tried to destroy her husband’s newspaper, El Federalista Mexicano, after it proclaimed the Bustamente regime to be illegitimate and terrorist. She was told, “it had become indispensable to answer such writers with blows” and that she was safe while inside the National Palace, but Bustamente could not answer for any action taken outside of its walls. There ensued a polemic in the press between El Federalista on Vicario’s side and El Sol and the Registro Oficial for the government. On 23 April 1831 El Federalista was closed down following heavy fines imposed by the government. In January 1832 Quintana Roo went into hiding. (Arrom, 40-41.)

In 1827 the legislature of Coahuila and Texas voted twice to change the name of its capital city to “Leona Vicario”. (Anna, 234.)

During her trial in 1813, she was asked if she had one of Feijóo's speeches (García, 46).

She knew Fernández de Lizardi and Carlos María Bustamente very well. (Ibarra de Anda, 38)

She is listed as a member of the Sociedad de los Guadalupes, a propietario, comerciante. (Torre Villar, lxxv)

She sent information to assist the patriot troops and gave her fortune to the independence cause. She was imprisoned in the Convento de Belén from which she escaped in 1813. She and Quintana Roo accompanied Morelos's troops. In 1818 they were captured and imprisoned in Toluca until 1820 when they returned to Mexico City. Their belongings that had been confiscated were returned to them in 1822. (Castañeda, 77-78)

She was born in the state of Mexico on 10 April 1789, the daughter of Gaspar Martín Vicario, a Spaniard, and Camila Fernández de San Salvador, a creole from Toluca. Her father died when she was a child and her mother when she was aged 17. She and her novio, Andrés Quintana Roo, supported the independence cause. Her cousin died in combat for the patriots in April 1813 and after that she played an active part in the struggle for independence by writing and sending messages to the patriots and sending them clothes, arms and medicine. She was arrested and held in the Colegiode Belén, but was rescued and fled to Oaxaca to join Morelos's troops, around 1814. She married Quintana Roo and gave birth to her first child, a daughter, in 1817. She worked with Quintana Roo after independence until her death on 21 August 1842 in calle República de Cuba, México D.F. In 1900 her remains were transferred to the Rotonda de lo Hombres Ilustres del Panteón de Dolores. She was described as "la mujer fuerte que consagró su fortuna y sus servicios personales a la causa de la Independencia." (Miquel i Vergés, 597-598).

At the age of 19 she sent supplies and letters of encouragement to the insurgents. In 1812 she sold her jewellery to buy bronze for cannons used by the patriots in Tlapujahua. (González Obregón, 157-158)

She died on 24 August 1842 in Mexico City.

Life Events

Born 1789She was born in April 1789.
Other 1810She became a member of the Sociedad de los Guadalupes.
Other 1812She sold her jewellery to provide money to buy cannons for the patriots.
Other 1813She was imprisoned for her part in the insurgents' campaign.
Other 1814She fled to Oaxaca.
Other 1817On 3 January 1817 she gave birth to her first child in a cave.
Other 1818She was imprisoned in Toluca.
Other 1822She was recompensed for her financial support for the insurgents.
Other 1828The town of Saltillo was temporarily renamed Leona Vicario.
Died 1842She died on 24 August 1842.


Domenella, Ana Rosa, and Pasternac, Nora, (1997), Las voces olvidadas: Antologia critica de narradoras mexicanas en el siglo XIX

Arrom, Silvia Marina, (1985), The women of Mexico City, 1790-1857

Anna, Timothy, (1998), Forging Mexico, 1821-35

García, Genaro, (1910), Documentos históricos mexicanos

Romero de Valle, Emilia, (1948), Mujeres de América

Lynch, John, (1986), The Spanish American Revolutions 1808-1826

Torre Villar, Ernesto de la, (1966), Los "Guadalupes" y la Independencia, con una selección de documentos inédittos

Gueda, Virginia, (1992), En busqueda de un gobierno alterno: Los Guadalupes de México

Rodríguez, Carlos, (1963), Heroes de la Independencia

Castañeda, Cecilia, (2003), Caudillos mexicanos

Miquel i Vergés, José María, (1969), Diccionario de Insurgentes

González Obregón, Luis, (c1952), Los procesos militar e inquisitorial del Padre Hidalgo y de otros caudillos insurgentes


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