Gendering Latin American Independence
List All Links | List Writing | List Archives | List References | List All People

Home » Database » Search » People

Juana Bianquet de Méndez

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

Biographical details

She was born in Galicia, Spain, around 1790, the daughter of Captain Bianquet who served in the Spanish army. He brought her to South America when she was a young child and they settled in Montevideo. She saw herself as a "patriota decidida". She married Manuel Méndez, a shopkeeper and merchant, when she was around 16; he was aged 26. They settled in Buenos Aires and then around eight years later, moved to Asunción in January 1815 "in the hope of bettering their fortune". They then had three children. She was an attractive and educated woman who aroused suspicion in her new neighbours who deemed her clothes to be immodest. She went to church corseted, with a low neckline covered by an "extremely transparent" veil and showing "a happy display of her well-turned ankle" and so offended the congregation that the priests ordered her out of the cathedral. She was told that she wanted to return she must wear "a long bombazeen dress and a rebozo".
She hosted tertulias that were attended by foreigners, such as William Parish Robertson, recent arrivals from Spain and Paraguayans such as Andrés and Juana Gómez who viewed Paraguayans with cynicism.
In August 1815 Méndez took some of his produce to Buenos Aires and returned with goods to sell in Paraguay. Dr Francia asked him about the political situation in Buenos Aires and then told Mendez "to depart in peace". A week later a government official broke up the Méndez tertulia and announced that Francia had ordered the family's exile to Curuguatí. Robertson believes that the reason was Francia's jealousy and was because Méndez had visited Buenos Aires, that Francia hated. The Mendezes were immediately ostracized. Bianquet took their punishment stoically urging them to accept their exile.
William Robertson tried to intervene with Francia and took over all the Mendezes assets that they were unable to take with them. The family them walked through silent streets to the port in Asunción and their exile accompanied by Robertson and a few servants. Robertson fell into the river and was knocked unconscious, he was pulled out by a peon and nonetheless sailed with the Mendezes for two days to ensure they were as comfortable as possible.
It took them 4 months and 12 days to reach Curuguatí. They were held up in Quarepotí port for two months awaiting transport. When it came, they sent their belongings ahead in several carriages, and the family followed in one the next morning. They travelled along swampy roads and their carriage fell depositing the family into a bed of thorns and left them to walk to the "hovel" in which they were to spend the night. The next morning Méndez went by horse to try to repair the carriage. On his return, his horse bolted, and Méndez broke his leg in two places in the fall. Bianquet set his leg as well as she could and sent a messenger to her former doctor back to Asunción asking for further instructions. Six days later she received a reply and over the next two months, Méndez recovered sufficiently to be able to ride to Curuguatí (they left on 20 January 1816). When they arrived he was unable to walk without crutches and Bianquet feared he would never regain the use of his leg.
They spent 11 years in exile until 1826 when Francia allowed them, and many other foreigners in Paraguay, to leave. They left Asunción on the Robertson brothers' boat and William Robertson met them in Buenos Aires. Méndez continued to trade and his children prospered although they said it took them a year to believe they were safe from Francia. (Robertson, Vol. 3, 40-62)

Life Events

Born 1790She was born around this date.
Married 1806She married Manuel Mendez Caldeyra around this time.
Other 1814She moved to Asunción.
Other 1815She was exiled to Curuguatí.
Other 1826She was allowed to return to Buenos Aires from exile.


Robertson, John Parish and W. P., (1970), Letters on Paraguay


Letter: Letter to William Roberston


Resource id #29 (29)

Resource id #33 (27)

Resource id #37 (13)

Resource id #41 (46)

Resource id #45 (6)

Gendering Latin American Independence

School of Modern Languages and Cultures
Trent Building, University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 5655