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

Home » Database » Search » People

María Cornelia Olivares

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

Biographical details

In 1817 she spoke publicly against the Spaniards in Chillán, Chile, about her hatred of foreigners, the oppressors of the Patria. She urged people to fight: "Hombres y mujeres deben tomar las armas contra los tiranos… la libertad a todos benefica, todos deben amarla y defenderla." She was sent to prison, shaved her hair and eyebrows, and exhibited her in the public plaza from 2 am until 2 pm. She stayed silent throughout her humiliation apart from answering some soldiers who shouted at her:
"La afrente que se recibe por la patria en vez de humillar engrandece." She became a heroine and a martyr winning public admiration. On 2 December 1818, General O'Higgins in a decree, declared her "una de las ciudadanas beneméritas del Estado". (Miranda, 56-57)

Grez describes her as "not young" in 1817. She spoke very eloquently, and was sought out in the salons. She proclaimed her hatred of the foreign oppressors aloud in the plazas and urged everyone to join the struggle, without fearing the consequences of her actions. The Spaniards threatened her with imprisonment if she did not keep quiet. She was prevented from leaving her home, but it was a fairly friendly arrangement as she was from an influential royalist family. This "friendly relationship" abruptly ended when she went out and preached revolution in the plaza. She was taken to prison and brutally insulted on the way. A group of people who tried to support her was dispersed by troops. Inside the prison her hair and eyebrows were shaved and she was publicly exhibited in Chillán plaza from 2 a.m. until 2 p.m. in an attempt to vilify her. She became a heroine and a martyr. The people who had until then admired her valour and patriotism, adored her. The Spaniards claimed that she had gone mad and that when her head was shaved she shouted and wailed furiously. This, Grez claims, was completely false; she never said a word during her martyrdom, apart from when she replied to some soldiers who ridiculed her: "La afrenta que se recibe por la patria, en vez de humillar engradece." General O'Higgins declared her a ciudadana benemérita de la patria in a decree on 2 December 1818. (Grez, 93-95.)

Life Events

Other 1817In 1817 she spoke out against the Spaniards in Chillán plaza.
Other 1818She was commended by General O'Higgins.


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

Grez, Vicente, (1966), Las mujeres de la independencia

Davies, Catherine, Brewster, Claire and Owen, Hilary, (2006), South American Independence. Gender, Politics, Text


There is no writing by this subject in the database.


Resource id #27 (12)

Resource id #31 (109)

Resource id #35 (2)

Resource id #39 (1)

Gendering Latin American Independence

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

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 5655