The City Council of Aguilar de la Frontera (Córdoba) has created a chair to vindicate the figure of Ana María Antonia de Soto y Alhama, the woman who posed as a man to be the first Spanish Marine.
The chair pursues disseminate the culture of the municipality and to value that “when you have goals, when you have horizons, it does not matter what you have to do to achieve them,” according to the mayor of Aguilar de la Frontera, Carmen Flores (IU).
The councilor believes that Ana María de Soto (Aguilar de la Frontera, 1775-Montilla, 1833), “it’s an example, as a woman and as a professional “because” she broke schemes that were not trivial “, that make her” a woman, at that time, where many obstacles to excel, in this totally masculine field “, an example of” that breaking barriers in what that she liked “.
Because the Aguilarense, despite being a woman, seems to have felt inclinations towards the military from very early on, so “decided to impersonate his personality, pretend to be a man and enlist in the Navy, “with which we can say that she was the first woman, without a doubt, in the history of Spain, enlisted in this army corps and probably one of the first in the world”, according to the Aguilarense official chronicler, Diego Igeño.
The deception lasted more than five years, until an illness caused the impersonation to be revealed in 1798 and she was licensed, although, far from being sanctioned, she was distinguished for her courage by Carlos IV “in attention to the war actions in which she participated, to her heroism, refined conduct and unique customs with which it has behaved during the time of its appreciable services “, according to the Royal Order that includes a municipal publication.
For Igeño, “at first the authorities did not know how to react, but as they assimilated the news they realized that what he had done was something truly spectacular, which was worth underlining and taking a favorable position” and “almost immediately it was decided assume and reward initiative he had had “.
His biography it is not very studied and there is controversy over his presence in some episodes in which he is cited, another member of the chair refers, one of the specialists in his figure and in naval history, Antonio Hierro.
From his workshop in the nucleus of Los Arenales, in Puente Genil, a municipality bordering Aguilar, the models of the five ships that they undertook the Magellan expedition and with which Juan Sebastián Elcano completed the first bypass around the world that were exhibited in the Archive of the Indies, in Seville, on the occasion of its fifth centenary.
There you are in full construction of the Mercedes frigate, one in which Ana María Antonia Soto y Alhama embarked -he insists on the Antonia, since Antonio was the false name that he used to enlist-, the first work of a series that can continue with other ships in which he fought for the Crown, such as the Dorotea or the Balbina.
Hierro is one of those who reject Soto’s participation in an episode, such as the siege of Bañul, but his presence stands out instead. “very heroic”, that of the gunboats of Cádiz, where the Spanish troops managed to free the island of León from the siege of the English “with a few simple little boats” avoiding their “very long line of fire”.
Back with the chronicler and the Councilor for Culture, Antonio Cosano (IU), from the parish of Nuestra Señora de Sotorraño, where she was baptized the same day she was born, on August 16, in the same font that is preserved with the shield from the Casa de Aguilar, a stop at the municipal library awaits the surprise that its manager, Francisco Toscano, has just received the first published biography of Soto, Brave woman, by land and by sea (1775-1833), a self-published by Francisco Busto Baena.
The author calls into question that the street that the City Council dedicated to him in 1975 was the one that housed the family home, the current Calle Los Pozos, to which the first constitutional Corporation changed the name in the restitution of the traditional names as soon as it was established in 1979.
What is admitted is that Ana María did not return after his leave to Aguilar, where his mother was from, but instead went to nearby Montilla, where his father was born, to set up the tobacconist and enjoy the rank and salary of first sergeant of the Navy Battalions that the Crown granted him for the services rendered.