Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro di Garibaldi, best known as Anita Garibaldi, (August 30, 1821 – August 4, 1849) was the Brazilian wife and comrade-in-arms of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. Their partnership epitomized the spirit of the 19th century’s age of romanticism and revolutionary liberalism.
Ana Maria “Anita” de Jesus Ribeiro was born into a poor family of Azorean Portuguese descent, herdsmen and fishermen in Laguna in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, a year prior to that country’s independence from Portugal. In 1835, at the young age of fourteen years, Anita was forced to marry Manuel Duarte Aguiar, who abandoned her to join the Imperial Army.
Giuseppe Garibaldi, a Nicois sailor of Ligurian ascent turned Italian nationalist revolutionary, had fled Europe in 1836 and was fighting on behalf of a separatist republic in southern Brazil (the War of the Farrapos). When young Garibaldi first saw Anita, he could only whisper to her, “You must be mine.” She joined Garibaldi on his ship, the Rio Pardo, in October 1839. A month later, she received her baptism of fire in the battles of Imbituba and Laguna, fighting at the side of her lover.
A skilled horsewoman, Anita is said to have taught Giuseppe about the gaucho culture of the plains of southern Brazil, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. One of Garibaldi’s comrades described Anita as “an amalgam of two elemental forces…the strength and courage of a man and the charm and tenderness of a woman, manifested by the daring and vigor with which she had brandished her sword and the beautiful oval of her face that trimmed the softness of her extraordinary eyes.”
(Anita dressed as a man)
In 1841, the couple moved to the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, where Giuseppe Garibaldi worked as a trader and schoolmaster before taking command of the Uruguayan fleet in 1842 and raising an “Italian Legion” for that country’s war against Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas. Anita participated in Garibaldi’s 1847 defense of Montevideo against Argentina and his Uruguayan allied former dictator Manuel Oribe.
Anita and Giuseppe were married on March 26, 1842, in Montevideo. They had four children, Menotti (1840–1903), Rosita (1843–1845), Teresita (1845–1903), and Ricciotti (1846–1924). Anita was carrying their fifth child when she died.
Anita remained a presence in Garibaldi’s heart for the rest of his life. It was perhaps with her memory in mind that, while traveling in Peru in the early 1850s, he sought out the exiled and destitute Manuela Sáenz, the fabled companion of Simón Bolívar. Years later, in 1860, when Garibaldi rode out to Teano to hail Victor Emanuel II as king of a united Italy, he wore Anita’s striped scarf over his gray South American poncho.