DJ Name: Leonasty
Cinco de Mayo is a big deal in America, and it’s marked with gran celebraciónes of Mexican culture and heritage. Though las fiestas are particularly litty city in Mexican-American enclaves, Cinco de Mayo has become popular throughout the States as well, with people donning bright colors, dancing and chowing down on chips and salsa. While Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexico’s independence day, and is really not that big of a deal in Mexico, it does mark a key victory against France during the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Unfortunately, this week’s Shuffler never got the chance to celebrate Cinco de Mayo since she passed away prior to the Battle of Puebla. However, she was instrumental in Mexico’s fight for freedom and even partly bankrolled the efforts. ¡Pero, espera! Hay màs. Leona Vicario also worked to keep Mexico City safe by acting as a messenger for insurgents and the independence movement, and helping fugitives escape to safety. She’s also recognized as one of Mexico’s first female journalists. Besides all those things, Leona made sure to mantenla real by curating this fun playlist for all her fiestas. She asks that you shuffle it up now before we take it back to las días antes de independencia de Mexico.
María de la Soledad Leona Camila Vicario Fernández de San Salvador, AKA Leona Vicario, was born on April 10, 1789 in Mexico City. She was an only child, just like Emmy, and we all know how cool and normal only children are! Leona’s papa was a wealthy merchant from Spain and her mama was also from a wealthy family from San Salvador. She grew up pampered by her parents until she was 18 and both of them passed away in 1807. She was left with her tio, Agustin Fernandez de San Salvador Pompous, a lawyer, who promised her he’d set her up with a good respectable lawyer hubby. Her uncle himself was quite respectable, and an ardent supporter of the Spanish crown. So were Leona’s tutors.
By the time Leona moved in with Tio Agustin, she had completed her education in science, art, painting, singing and literature. She was a well-rounded gal. Because she was wealthy AND pretty AND had good milkshakes (ok, maybe not that last one) — a winning combo — all the boys were flocking to her yard. Tio Agustin wanted his niece to marry a lawyer from his firm named Octavian Obregon, but Leona had her sights set on someone else: Andrés Leone Quintana Roo. But Andrés, another lawyer whom she met at her uncle’s office, was too spicy of a romantic choice given his radical political idealism. Tio Agustin forced the two to separate, and left Leona bleeding love. Luckily, her wedding to Octavian never took place because he was called to Spain before their nuptials.
Perhaps influenced by her amante prohibida Andrès, Leona was an early proponent for and participant in Mexico’s fight for freedom. Before the revolution was even a revolution (that’s right, she got into the whole revolution thing BEFORE it was cool), Leona was part of a super-secret group called the Guadalupes. She served as the group’s messenger, receiving and distributing the rebels’ communication for the independence movement. She also helped fugitives and sent money and medicine to members of the movement. As the group gained more supporters and strength and as Spain cracked down on its colony, Leona gave more and more of her personal fortune to the Guadalupes.
Her contributions grew and grew. In 1812, she sold her inherited jewels and other personal belongings to fund the purchase of a cannon and ammo from an arms dealer. In 1812 U.S. dollars, it cost her about $85,000 (that’s over $1.6 mil today!). She was all in, baby, makin’ it rain all over Spain(‘s plans).
Despite her best sneaky efforts, one of her secret letters found its way into the wrong hands in 1813. She fled Mexico City, but she was caught and interrogated at length. But Leona never gave in and refused to give her interrogators any names or intel. Her loyal lips were sealed. As punishment, her personal property was confiscated and she was sentenced to prison. ¡Ay, Dios mío! She was sent to a convent prison called Belén de las Mochas, but wasn’t there for too long. One day in prison, three men in officer garb came to her cell and moved her to an interrogation room. However there was no interrogating to be done because these three men were there undercover in stolen uniforms to help her escape. Juicy! Guards ran around the prison yelling “¿Qué pasa?” as they came to realize that Leona was gone. And she didn’t even say “Adios, muchachos.”
While on the lam, Leona travelled not with a lamb but with a donkey as she journeyed to her amiga’s safe house in Tlapujaha, Michoacán. It was here that the estrellas aligned and she unexpectedly reunited with her one true (forbidden) love, Andrés Leone Quintana Roo, who as you remember she was forced away from by her Tio Agustin when they were just two young revolutionaries falling in love as they fought for the fall of Spanish control of Mexico. Well here they were together again, ready to return to the fight. But first, they got married. Aw! ¡Dito!
Leona and her new hubby Andrés lived out their love story by migrating all around Mexico to stay involved with the various battles. But because Leona sold a few of her favorite fancy things for supplies earlier in the revolution, she no longer had dinero to finance the fight like she did before. However, she had her educational skills from all her years of school. This brainiac, with a newly closed wallet, decided to pivot and reunited with her pen and began to publish political pieces that criticized Spain’s colonization and shared the movements of the revolution. Her writings were published in El Ilustrador Americano and Semanario Patriótico Americano.
When two of the Revolution’s leaders were captured and executed, Leona and Andrés were offered pardons, but both said no and hasta la vista’d out of there. They became two of the most wanted revolutionaries and had to live in hiding. They welcomed a lil’ revolutionary and had their first niña in 1817, but a few months later the familia was captured. Leona accepted the pardon she had earlier said no to because she wanted to protect her niña, Genoveva. Their life on the run came to a stop and they set up a home in the town of Toluca. Meanwhile, the fight continued and Mexico eventually did gain independence from España in the fall of 1821.
After its official declaration of independence, the new and independent Mexican Congress rewarded Leona a cash settlement, an estate called Ocotepec and three houses in Mexico City for her personal sacrifices and many financial contributions to the early days of the war. Leona passed away many years later in 1842. Since then, she became one of the first women on a stamp in Mexico and earned the name “Sweet Mother of the Fatherland’ aka Benemerita y Dulcisima Madre de la Patria en español. And! Her profile was displayed in the $5 peso during the bicentennial anniversary of independence for Mexico.