The Carambada

An Unbreakable Woman

Leonarda Emilia Martínez was born in 1842 in an Indian village near Querétaro, called La Punta. Her father died when she was only four years old, fighting against the Americans.

The people of that place had a reputation as a thief and certainly, Leonarda from very young began to draw oxen and horses from neighboring farms during the night; years later he dedicated himself to stealing diligences full of gold and to share his profits among the poor.

Black hair, short and plump, wide face, with a scar on his left cheek, wearing a short, bright-colored petticoat ... that was the description they gave of La Carambada, as he was known.

There was no party, canteen, dance or house of prostitution where she was not surrounded by her bandit friends.

It is said that she was a companion of Carlota and Maximiliano, who fell in love with her. Leonarda replied that she had already made friends with the empress and therefore could not agree to her wishes, but the reality was different: she was in love with a French captain of the monarchical army, called José Joaquín Ortiz.

In his last days, the empire took refuge in Querétaro. There, José Joaquín was taken prisoner and sentenced to die shot. La Carambada went to all the authorities, including Benito Juárez, president of Mexico. Before the refusal of the pardon the woman swore revenge.

From that moment on, Leonarda Emilia became a highway robber, assaulted no matter who and hid herself among the grottoes of the tunnels in the outskirts of the city.

He did this until he got the call "veintiunilla", an herb that causes the death of those who eat it 21 days later...

Thanks to her beauty and presence, she met Guillermo Prieto, who invited her to a dinner with Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, president of the Supreme Court and successor of the presidency, in case there was no president.

He took charge of bringing it back to Benito Juárez, who during the meeting left a glass unattended on the table, when La Carambada took the opportunity to pour two drops of "twenty-one" into the drink. Lerdo de Tejada witnessed the events and only smiled at the murderer.

Juarez died 21 days later with symptoms of angina pectoris and Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada was named his successor.

At the age of 86, Leonarda Emilia was shot. While the nuns in the hospital cleaned the body for the autopsy they discovered that she was alive... it was then that she asked for a priest to tell her story and finally she died two days after receiving five bullets.

Or at least that's what the story "La Carambada, Mexican Reality" tells, a story published in 1941 that many took as historical truth...

La Carambada

Listen to our narration of The Carambada


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