Leona Vicario, Mexican Emblem of Women's Liberation

Learn more about Leona Vicario, the heroine of Mexican Independence. She was declared Meritorious and Sweetest Mother of the Nation on August 25, 1842.

Leona Vicario, Mexican Emblem of Women's Liberation
Leona Vicario, Mexican emblem of women's liberation. Screenshot. Photo National Museum of History. 

The struggle for the independence of New Spain was an event that provoked intense participation of all sectors of the New Spain society. Groups that usually did not figure in government administration or viceregal politics, as in the case of women, successfully ventured into these fields; the insurgents participated with more than sympathy during the development of the struggle that emancipated our country from the Spanish crown.

María de la Soledad Leona Camila Vicario Fernández de San Salvador, who is commonly known as Leona Vicario, was one of the women who during the struggle for the Independence of New Spain had a preponderant role that led her to risk her own life and that of her family. It is known that her date of birth was April 10, 1789, in Mexico City; her mother, Camila Fernández de San Salvador, a Creole from Toluca, was the second marriage of the Spanish merchant Gaspar Marín Vicario, who was born in the Iberian Peninsula.

She was orphaned at an early age and her mother died when she was approximately 17 years old, so she was left under the guardianship of her maternal uncle and godfather Agustín Pomposo Fernández de San Salvador, who was a renowned lawyer in the novo-Hispanic society. It was in her uncle's office where she met Andrés Quintana Roo, a native of the city of Mérida, who was about to finish his studies at the Royal and Pontifical University, was beginning to practice law and who, years later, would become her husband.

In 1808, the Napoleonic invasion of the peninsula, the subsequent deposition of the monarchs, and the imposition of Joseph Bonaparte to the Spanish crown caused a major upheaval in the political and social life of the viceroyalty. Leona Vicario was no stranger to the series of events that gave rise to the struggle for independence and joined the gatherings of a secret group, which was identified as Los Guadalupes, which communicated with the conspiratorial junta of Queretaro and whose leaders included the priest Miguel Hidalgo and the military man Ignacio Allende; in this society, Leona Vicario participated as a courier and spy.

Her firm decision to become fervently involved in the fight for independence led her, besides being part of Los Guadalupes, to provide the insurgency with economic resources, medicines, and food. Due to her intense subversive activity, Leona Vicario was arrested in 1813, tried, and imprisoned through the intervention of her uncle Agustín Pomposo in the San Miguel de Belén College, from which she managed to escape on April 22nd of that same year.

Her contact with the insurgency led by José María Morelos y Pavón, led her to seek refuge in the cities of Oaxaca and Chilpancingo, which eventually led to her marriage to the insurgent lawyer Andrés Quintana Roo on April 6, 1813. Due to the constant harassment of the royalist army over the territories dominated by the insurgents, the young couple was forced to change their place of residence frequently.

In 1817, the insurgent struggle had entered a process of decay after the execution of Morelos; that year Leona Vicario gave birth to her first daughter in a cave near the town of Tlatlaya, located in the current state of Guerrero. The insurgency, reduced to guerrilla groups with a focused presence, was one of the incentives that forced Leona Vicario's family to separate in 1818, after being denounced by a former insurgent; in such a situation, Andrés Quintana Roo was forced to seek and accept a pardon, and with which, the family would be sent to the peninsula.

Once Mexico's independence was consummated, Leona Vicario, together with her husband, remained in the country and joined the liberal political current that fought for the establishment of federalism in the first years of our country as an independent nation.

Leona Vicario died in Mexico City on August 21, 1842, when she was 53 years old. Antonio López de Santa Anna decreed posthumous state funerals in which she was named "Mother of Benemérita de la Patria". In 1910, her remains, together with those of her husband, were transferred to the Independence Column where they currently rest.

On November 26, 1948, in a solemn session of the XL Legislature, her remains were inscribed in gold letters on the Wall of Honor of the Congress of the Union.