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Maria Micaela Villegas Hurtado (September 28, 1748 – May 16, 1819), known as La Perricholi, was arguably the most famous Peruvian woman of the eighteenth century. She was a celebrated entertainer and the famous mistress of Manuel de Amat y Junyent, Viceroy of Peru from 1761 to 1776. Their son, Manuel de Amat y Villegas, was one of the signers of Peru’s declaration of independence from Spain on July 28, 1821.
La Perricholi was the sixth child born to Don José Villegas and Doña Teresa Hurtado de Mendoza. Born in either Tomayquichua (in the province of Huanuco) or the capital city of Lima, she was baptized at the Lima Cathedral on December 1, 1748.
She debuted on the stage of Coliseo de Comedias in 1763 and became a popular star within romance and comedy. She retired in 1788, and married in 1795.
Ricardo Palma in his book Tradiciones Peruanas writes about her life and describes her as charming woman. He also provides historical information about her relationship with Amat. According to the author, she inspired Amat to build some of the beautiful buildings in the colonial city of Lima, such as La Alameda de los Descalzos, La Quinta de Presa, el Templo de las Nazarenas or El Paseo de Aguas.
Her story provided the basis for Prosper Mérimée’s comic one-act Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement, which in turn provided the basis for both Jacques Offenbach’s opéra bouffe, La Périchole and Jean Renoir’s 1953 film Le Carrosse d'or (The Golden Coach).
A miniseries was made in 1994 based on her story. It had great success and launched the career of Mónica Sánchez (that had the role of La Perricholi). It was written by Eduardo Adrianzen.
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