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4/2/2019 A Hidden Caribbean Revolution?

Race and Revolution in Venezuela, 1789-1817 – Age of Revolutions


A Hidden Caribbean Revolution? Race and
Revolution in Venezuela, 1789-1817

Posted on May 14, 2018 by Age of Revolutions
Reading time 12 minutes

This post is a part of the “Race and Revolution” Series.

By Frédéric Spillemaeker (

The wave of revolutionary sentiment from the 1790s to Independence questioned the social and racial
inequalities that divided colonial Venezuela. The majority of the Venezuelan population
was Pardo, a mixed-race people of African and European descent who were considered legally inferior to
Europeans and Creoles. While pardos could bear arms and organize in militias, they only ascended to the
grade of captain. Hence, most pardo militias remained under command of Mantuanos – white colonels
and members of the landed ruling class. When colonial order was challenged by Amerindians seeking to
recover their lands and slaves pursuing freedom, a large mass of armed pardos mobilized in demand of
equality. The 1790s revolutions in the Greater Caribbean, and later, the Latin American Independence
Wars beginning in 1810, scrambled the existing socio-racial structure of domination in Venezuela, at least
in the domain of the army, with pardo leaders like Jean-Baptiste Bideau and Manuel Piar.

In August 1793, the Revolution led by Toussaint Louverture, enabled the abolition of slavery in Saint
Domingue.[1] A few months later, on 16 Pluviôse An II (February 4, 1794), the French
Convention extended the abolition decree to all French colonies. By June 1794, when Victor Hugues took
over Guadeloupe, former slaves had become soldiers in defense of revolutionary values. This was the
beginning of a cycle of victories for the alliance between France, free people of color, and emancipated
slaves.[2] In the island of Trinidad, formerly part of Venezuela, a ba le confronted the alliance of French
and Afro-Antilleans against the English on May 8-9, 1796. Among the French officers was Jean-
Baptiste Bideau, a “mulâtre” from Sainte-Lucie.[3] In spite of the defeat and the English seizure of the
island in February 1797, slave uprisings erupted throughout Venezuela. Armed slaves mobilized
in Carupano and in Rio Caribe in 1798,[4] and a suspected pardo plot was unveiled in Barcelona in 1801.
[5] Back in Saint Domingue, now named Haiti, the revolution resisted Napoleon’s slavery restoration
a empt and ultimately declared its Independence in 1804. 1/4

but could well have been an opportunist action for upse ing royalists. at this stage. because at this stage the slaves remained excluded and most of the generals were creoles and not pardos. Fulfilling a heroic trajectory. The British criminalized Bideau in 1813 for recruiting fugitive slaves from Trinidad.[12] and was in capacity to challenge Bolivar’s leadership.[9] In reality. a new revolutionary era began. as demonstrated by Clément Thibaud. In spite of their different a itudes regarding slaves’ emancipation and pardos’ power. In different and even conflicting ways. a Venezuelan mantuano and slave-owner. such as during the a ack of Maturin in 1813. in favor of Independence but not abolitionist in its purpose. In condemning him. but Bideau denied the charge. he was among the organizers of a patriot offensive in eastern Venezuela. when he replaced Bernardo Bermudez as the commanding officer by proclamation of his soldiers. 2/4 . Bideau had previously been a corsair of Victor Hugues. Bolívar argued that Piar was planning a war of extermination against creoles by the pardos and slaves . and fugitive slaves could be useful. he faced the death penalty in 1817. Venezuela and New Granada were the first colonies in Spanish America to write republican constitutions that granted citizenship to Amerindians and Pardos. the aftermath of independence dismissed Manuel Piar as a “traitor”. Bideau died in combat a year later. joined patriot armies. Compared to Bideau. and as such he had taken part of an emancipatory war in 1794-1796 that had temporarily abolished slavery. In 1816. Together. His historical legacy has often celebrated his figure as a loyal patriot. In a le er to the British. was strongly arguing for real equality and access to power for pardos. these Spanish colonies minted a universal and inclusive vision of citizenship. Piar had proved to hold strong leadership on several occasions. Afro-Antilleans who once struggled for freedom and equality. Bideau became widely famous for saving Bolívar’s life in Ocumare. President Alexandre Pétion encouraged Bolívar to advance the emancipation of slaves willing to bear arms for the cause of independence.[10] This alleged emancipation could have been a revolutionary measure in principle.[6] But this citizenship was not extended to the slaves. Bideau and Piar had a lot in common.[11] Indeed. they were nonetheless both actors of a hidden Caribbean Revolution for Independence. a pardo general. as wars for political independence erupted throughout Spanish America. https://ageofrevolutions. the heart of the Caribbean revolutions.[7] Despite his preeminence. In 1813. they formed an expedition for recruiting Afro-Antillean militias in a time when free colored people remained struggling for social rights in Trinidad. After fleeing Güiria. But Bolivar may have only wanted to execute a powerful political rival. Both were Afro-Antilleans and had been officers and leaders through their active participation in revolutionary wars. 1789-1817 – Age of Revolutions In 1810-1811. Once the caudillo of Guayana. a deep transformation in which both envisioned the possibility of challenging the existent socio-racial order. Both became radical figures for their times. While revolutionaries needed British support.[8] It is yet to be proved whether Bideau. such as the aforementioned Jean-Baptiste Bideau and Manuel Piar. one of the most advanced in the Atlantic world. argued in favor of a new abolition. In contrast.4/2/2019 A Hidden Caribbean Revolution? Race and Revolution in Venezuela. Their participation in the War for Independence help us understand some fundamental contradictions of the process. As Carriacolo Parra-Perez suggests. Bideau had to serve under the leadership of Santiago Mariño. launched from the recently British island of Trinidad. On the basis of republican values. but not necessarily for slaves’ emancipation. In Haiti. they also needed troops. Bideau for the English and Piar for Bolívar. Bideau may have emancipated the slaves of Güiria at the moment royalists forced him to flee the city in 1815. Bideau embraced the political game of an age of revolutions. Jean-Baptiste Bideau faced exile in Haiti with the main patriot leader Simon Bolívar and other crucial figures of the independence movement. he asserted his intention of returning every fugitive slave to his owner. 3/4 . 2004). 2017). Hernández. Tomás Straka. Cristina Soriano. Le spectre de la révolution noire : l’impact de la révolution haïtienne dans le monde atlantique 1790-1886 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.20 is a researcher at the Casa de Velázquez (h ps://www. Rumor of Change. La fondation des premières républiques du monde hispanique (Colombie et Venezuela.1.). “The French Revolution in Spanish America”. C. He is working on a PhD dissertation about the birth of the caudillos in South America during the Age of Revolutions.1. 1789-1817 – Age of Revolutions Frédéric Spillemaeker (h ps://www. [5] Archivo General Militar de Madrid (AGMM). political history of Latin America and the Caribbean and the French Revolution. in Alan Forrest. 2011). Aline Helg. 2013). Estado. 2. in Oscar Álvarez Gila. The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University 1780-1820) (Rennes: Les Perséides.jpg) Further Reading : Alejandro Gómez. Correspodance of Capitán General of Venezuela. 2014). The Dial Press. Alberto Angulo Morales. 66. Libérer le Nouveau Monde. Avengers of the New World. pp. Title image: Manuel Carlos Piar. The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.77-96). 1990). Fick. 1961). His primary research are in the Independence of Colombia and Venezuela. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint l’Ouverture and the Santo Domingo Revolution (New-York. Obra de Pablo W.). Ultramar. Ma hias Middel (ed. Alejandro Cardozo Uzcátegui (ed. The Routledge Companion to the French Revolution in World History (London and New-York: Routledge. https://ageofrevolutions. Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia 1770-1835 (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina spillemaeker/) (École des Hautes Études Hispaniques et ibériques.4/2/2019 A Hidden Caribbean Revolution? Race and Revolution in Venezuela.casadevelazquez. Michael Zeuske. 2004). Algunos problemas y posibilidades”. Caracas. Manuel de Guevara Vasconcelos. EHEHI) and a PhD candidate at the École des Hautes des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). Endnotes : [1] Carolyn E. [3] Archivo General de Indias (AGI). 5678. Laurent Dubois. The Making of Haiti – The Saint-Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press.R James. A Turbulent Time. 1938). Correspondance of Trinidad Governor. José Maria Chacon. “Venezuela en la revolución atlántica. [2] David Barry Gaspar et David Geggus. (h ps://commons. [4] Federico Brito Figueroa: Las insurrecciones de los esclavos negros en la sociedad colonial de Venezuela (Caracas: Editoral Cantaclare. 1997). Repercussions of Caribbean Turmoil and Social Conflict in Venezuela (New- York University.casadevelazquez.L. PhD Dissertation. Clément Thibaud. El Carrusel Atlántico. Memorias y sensibilidades (1500-1950) (Caracas and Vitoria-Gasteiz: Editorial Nuevos Aires-Universidad del País Vasco.

[7] Francisco Alejandro Vargas. 29 Correspondance of Trinidad Governor. [8] Kit Candlin. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies. El Libertador de Oriente (Madrid : Ediciones Cultura Hispánica. el mulato francés que fue secundo organizador de la Expedición de Chachacare (Caracas: Fundación Boulton. Caracas. 2012). ABOLITIONISM HISTORY RACE SIMON BOLIVAR SLAVERY VENEZUELA 1 COMMENT One thought on “A Hidden Caribbean Revolution? Race and Revolution in Venezuela. 1789-1817 – Age of Revolutions [6] Clément Thibaud: Libérer le Nouveau 4/4 . (Basingstoke et New-York: Palgrave Mc Millan. Républiques en armes. Gov. 1970). 1954). [11] Clément Thibaud. 1968). 437A. [12] AGI. Capitán de navío Juan Bautista Bideau. 1780-1820) (Rennes: Les Perséides. The Last Caribbean Frontier. Le er from Bideau to Woodford. el Salvador del Libertador (Caracas: Editorial Venegráfica. 1795-1815. n°9. Paul Verna. BERNARD RICHARD says: June 6. Colonial Office (CO). 1.4/2/2019 A Hidden Caribbean Revolution? Race and Revolution in Venezuela. 17th of June 1813. testimony about the loss of Maturin by Formosa to Level de Goda. [10] Caracciolo Parra-Pérez. 2017). 295. 2018 at 4:57 pm Do you know something about syndical movment in 1910 PPuerto Rico using La Marsellesa de los obreros REPLY https://ageofrevolutions. [9] The National Archives (NA). Monsieur Bideau. Les armées de Bolivar dans les guerres d’Indépendance du Venezuela et de la Colombie (Rennes : Presses Universitaires de Rennes. 16th of october 1813. La fondation des premières républiques du monde hispanique (Colombie et Venezuela. 2006). Mariño y la Independencia de Venezuela. of Trinidad. 1789-1817” 1.