Madame Isabela Godin des Odonais
Isabel Godin des Odonais became famous for being the only survivor of a 42-person, 3000-mile expedition through the Amazon Basin to rejoin her husband
Isabela Godin des Odonais was an 18th-century woman who became separated from her husband in South America by colonial politics, and was not reunited with him until more than 20 years later. Her long journey, from western Peru to the mouth of the Amazon River, is without equal in the history of South America. Her story has been often repeated and inspired popular misconceptions of the dangers of the tropical rain forest.
In 1749, her husband, Jean Godin des Odonais, left their home in Riobamba, Ecuador, Spanish South America to visit French Guiana. As a French citizen, he was refused permission by the Spanish and Portuguese authorities to return for his family.
Isabela arrived in France from Guiana in 1773, and for months her tale of wifely devotion was the talk of every salon in Paris. For good reason, as the story of this tale of an amazing Amazonian odyssey shows. A remarkable story, it takes Jean Godin on a French scientific expedition to Peru in 1735 and six years later he marries the thirteen-year-old daughter of the Spanish governor. Godin’s plan to take his wife, Isabela, and their young family to France originates in nostalgia, but his sense of responsibility as well as adventure prompts him to first test the possibility of crossing the Andes, travelling the length of the Amazon, and sailing to French Guiana. He succeeds, but only after 20 years of petitions to the Portuguese government for passage will Godin’s wife undertake the same 3,000-mile journey—and encounter a series of jungle horrors and river tragedies that will reduce her party of 42 to her half-mad self, starving and alone.