Laura Pérez de Oleas Zambrano

Laura Pérez de Oleas Zambrano, pseudonym Doña Manuelita (Quito, circa 1904-14 — circa 1981) was an Ecuadorian writer. She authored a novel, a collection of stories, two radio dramas, and an unpublished collection of poems. One of her significant works, published in 1959, is the novel “Sangre en las manos” (Blood on the Hands), which grapples with the moral complexities of abortion. This compelling narrative draws inspiration from a real-life incident, the trial of an obstetrician in Quito during 1938, charged with the death of a patient during a clandestine abortion. Her other notable work is a two-volume collection of stories entitled, “Historias, leyendas y tradiciones ecuatorianas” [Ecuadorian Stories, Leyends and Traditions] (1962).

* Because there does not appear to be agreement on the exact date of Laura Pérez’s birth or death, we have chosen to approximate the dates based on data from various sources, hence why circa is used above.


Laura Pérez de Oleas Zambrano was born circa 1904-1914 in Quito, Ecuador. After losing her mother at an early age, she became a student boarder at La Inmaculada School, under the tutelage of Belgian nuns, where she also studied piano and painting. Although she was born into a wealthy family, as a young woman she faced economic difficulties when she was left a widow with two children. Through her second husband, Neptalí Oleas Zambrano, Pérez had contact with the Ecuadorian socialist party. Her literary work included a collection of short stories, two radio dramas, a novel and an unpublished collection of poems.

Sangre en las manos [Blood on the Hands]

“Sangre en las manos,” a singular work by Laura Pérez de Oleas Zambrano, published in 1959, has garnered attention for its historical and thematic significance in Ecuadorian literature. The novel is inspired by the controversial case of Carmela Granja in 1938, a woman embroiled in legal and moral conflict due to her involvement in abortion services in Quito, Ecuador. Through the fictional character Estenia Germán, Zambrano delves into the complexities of societal norms, morality, and the challenges faced by women in a conservative society. Set against the backdrop of early 20th-century Ecuador, the narrative provides a nuanced exploration of personal and societal dilemmas surrounding abortion.

“Sangre en las manos” stands as an important, albeit underrecognized, piece of literature that sheds light on pivotal social issues. It highlights the struggle for women’s autonomy and the complexities of navigating societal expectations, making it a valuable contribution to the canon of Latin American literature and a crucial resource for understanding both historical and contemporary discussions on women’s rights in Latin America.

The novel’s reflection on moral and ethical considerations of its time, along with its inspiration from a true story, make it a compelling subject for scholarly analysis and discussion. However, despite its relevance and depth, “Sangre en las manos” has seen limited circulation, with its original 1959 publication remaining its only edition to date.


  • Sangre en las manos (Editorial Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, 1959)
  • Historias, leyendas y tradiciones ecuatorianas. Primer tomo. (1962)
  • Historias, leyendas y tradiciones ecuatorianas. Segundo tomo. (1962)

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