The Woman of La Mancha

I love running across new historical tidbits (new to me, that is), and somehow, I had never seen this portrait of Juana Galán. Absolutely love the depiction of this Spanish national hero.

"La Galana, guerrillera de La Mancha" (nd)by Carlos Isidro

“La Galana, guerrillera de La Mancha” (nd)
by Carlos Isidro

Juana Galán (1787-1812)

In 1808, Napoleon, running out of scenic holiday destinations to invade, somehow totally forgot about his neighbor to the south, Spain. So that year he dispatched his troops, kicking off the Peninsular War.

Only 20 years old and working as a barmaid in the town of Valdepenas, Juana Galan was not expecting a surge of French soldiers to come storming through her village. But on June 6, that’s exactly what happened. At that time, most of the men were fighting Napoleon’s forces elsewhere in the nation. Juana, unfazed by things like rifles and Frenchmen and French riflemen, began organizing the women in her village to form a trap for the approaching army.

When the army arrived, Juana and her friends were ready. They dumped boiling water and oil on the French troops, which by all accounts will instantly take the fight out of pretty much anyone. Then Juana, armed with only a batan, beat back the heavily armed French cavalry with her squad of village women, almost none of whom were armed with guns.

The French retreated, giving up on capturing not just Juana’s town but the entire province of La Mancha, leading to ultimate Spanish victory. Today, she is seen in Spain as a national hero, a symbol of resistance, strength, patriotism, feminism and hitting shit with a stick.

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