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María Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi

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

Biographical details

She was born in 1799 into an upper-class family who supported the independence movement. (Knaster, 480.) She married General Juan Bautista Arsimendi on 4 December 1814.

In 1815, Pablo Morillo's troops were sent to try to re-conquer Venezuela. They unsuccessfully tried to capture Arsimendi, on the Island of Margarita, but took the young and beautiful Cáceres instead.

On 29 January 1816, a Spanish officer, Pardo, wrote: "La esposa de Arismendi había dado a luz, en la prisión a que estaba reducida, un nuevo monstruo … y que convendría decapitarla." He added, "si debería privar la vida a todas las mujeres y niños de la Isla de Margarita que eran patriotas y que servían a sus maridos, hermanos y padres insurgentes". (Calle, 65)

On 26 January she gave birth to her daughter, who was baptised Juan Bautista, but died shortly afterwards. Cáceres was left with the child's body for 2 days. When she asked for help, some children were sent to her. She gave them her daughter and the children then said they'd thrown the body down a cliff. She was taken from her cell and shown a place where she was told she would be shot. Cáceres stood where they indicated and told them to get on with it. It proved to be a means of torture and she was taken back to her cell. In 1816, she was transferred to La Guaira and offered freedom if she renounced Arismendi and her ties to the independence movement. She refused on the basis that she was a honourable and innocent woman. She was then taken to Caracas. In January 1817 she was sent into exile in Andalucía, Spain, given a pension of 15 duros, and told to report to the Juez de Alzada each month. In 1818 she was freed, and on 26 July 1818 was reunited with her husband and her mother after a 4 year absence. She was 19 years old. (N.A., Heroínas, 22-24)

Monsalve notes the different versions of her story. One historian says she died in 1812 or 1813; another that her ordeal happened in September 1815. He uses the Corona Fúnebre as his source and claims Arismendi went into hiding in the woods, but knowing that his persecutor would kill his sons, aged 8 and 9, he handed over his wealth to his persecutor in 1817. He was put in chains and sent to La Guaira. He was threatened with death if his wife did not give up his weapons, but she denied that there were any. Cáceres was sent to a Cadiz prison for three years, staying there until released by the liberal Junta in 1820. Her captors described her as "ángel plácido". He also reproduces Pardo's account of her newly born child's death at the hands of the Spaniards in 1816 and his suggestion that all women and children on the island should be killed. (The account was given in a letter from Pardo to General Moxó.) Monsalve adds that at the end of 1815, in Cumaná, 43 people, including many women and children were put onto a boat and the captain, Francisco García, was ordered to throw them into the water. García did not want to fulfil this order. (Monsalve, 57, 68, 74)

She died in 1866.

Life Events

Born 1799She was born 12 September 1799.
Married 1814She married General Juan Bautista Arismendi on 4 December 1814.
Other 1815She was taken prisoner and held on Margarita Island.
Other 1816She gave birth to a daughter on 26 January 1816, in prison. The baby died shortly afterwards.
Other 1816She was held in a Caracas prison.
Other 1817She was sent into exile in Spain.
Other 1818She was freed and reunited with her husband and family?
Other 1820She was possibly freed from her Cadiz prison by the liberal junta.
Died 1866She died peacefully on 2 July 1866.


Knaster, Meri, (1977), Women in Spanish America: An Annotated Bibliography from Pre-Conquest to Contemporary Times

Calle, Manuel J., (1955), Leyendas del tiempo heroico

N.A., (1964), Heroínas venezolanas

Monsalve, José D, (1926), Mujeres de la independencia


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Gendering Latin American Independence

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