Historia y Personajes

History of Venezuela Second Part

5. The Independence

19 de Abril - Tito Salas
19 de Abril - Tito Salas

Between 1810 and 1823, a series of events occurred that ended up in the consolidation of Venezuela as an independent state. The Spanish political situation arose when Jose Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother) overthrew Fernando VII, was taken by the "criollo" elite as an excuse to remove the Governor and General Captain Vicente Emparan. The Venezuelan independence had begun.

On July 5th, 1811 the member of the Patriotic Society managed to drive almost the total congress to proclaim the absolute Venezuelan independence. Here lies the foundation of the Venezuelan State.

Among the officers who had to leave the country when Monteverde took over was Simon Bolivar, a young Venezuelan aristocrat born in Caracas on July 24th 1783 who later would become "Bolivar El Libertador" and who under the guidance of his tutor Simon Rodriguez had been exposed to the most revolutionary contemporary ideas. Bolivar toured the European courts, where he consolidated his political paradigm and swore to commit his life to free his country from the Spanish bondage.

Miranda in la Carraca - Arturo Michelena
Miranda in la Carraca - Arturo Michelena

Simón Bolivar in Michelena

After being defeated by Monteverde, Bolivar took refuge in Cartagena, where he wrote his famous "Manifiesto" and began to achieve merits as a great statesman and strategist. The government of Nueva Granada supported him with material and human resources and thus began the "Campaña Admirable". (See the graphic). This campaign ended on August 7th, 1813 when Bolivar triumphantly entered Caracas. However, this young Second Republic ended abruptly with the appearance of Jose Tomas Boves and his powerful troop. Boves, well known for his cruelty, provoked a stampede of Caracas population towards the Eastern regions. It is said that more people died in this escape than in the 1812 earthquake.

Detalle Huída hacia Oriente - Titos Salas
Detalle Huída hacia Oriente
Titos Salas

Fortunately, Boves terrifying campaign lasted less than a year, but left behind a horrible track of blood and slaughter. However the hardest and most painful period of the Venezuelan independence was yet to come.

Spain, once got over the French invasion with Fernando VII back in his throne, took all necessary steps to recover its lost colonies, and for the first time sent a highly organized army with an European military structure, which made an easy prey of the altogether economically, physically and morally destroyed Venezuela.

Pablo Morillo, the General Commander of these numerous and well equipped troops, took over the Spanish colonies and committed to pacify and reestablish the order throughout the recovered territories. Morillo knew Bolivar was away in Las Antillas and only small fighting patriotic groups were left, which he considered no cause for worries. He might have thought the war was over, and his main task then was to rebuild the "pacified" country. History proved him wrong.

Monument to commemorate the battle of Carabobo
Monument to commemorate the battle of Carabobo

Six years of cruel and pitiless fight were to follow. Venezuelans were determined to conquer their freedom once and for all, no matter what they had to go through. A series of battles with no definite winner followed and it was not until June 24th 1821 when the round victory of Bolivar and his troops over the Spaniards that Venezuelan independence consolidated. The battle of Maracaibo (July 24th 1823) won by Admiral Padilla, and the seizure of Puerto Cabello Fort (November 8th 1823) by Jose Antonio Paez, concluded the Independence period and finally set Venezuela an entirely Venezuela an entirely independent country.

The following years witnessed a long series of internal fights over power and ideological trends, which finally ended up with the extinction of the continental union, which was Bolivar greatest dream.

By the year 1830, with Bolivar and Sucre deaths, Venezuela withdrawal from the "Gran Colombia", and the new constitution, the independence period came to an end.

6. El Caudillismo

In 1830 Jose Antonio Paez assumed his first presidency. This period was the prelude of the so-called "Caudillismo", featuring a series of changes in power from one commander to another which engendered the civil war (1859-1863), between centralists (conservatives) and federalists (liberals) being won by the latter.

Among the winning leaders emerged the new Venezuelan ruler Antonio Guzman Blanco. In his period many public buildings and monuments (The Capitol, Bolivar Square, The Municipal Theatre, The National Pantheon) were built and the communicational infrastructure (Caracas-Valencia road, Ports of La Guaira and Puerto Cabello, first railroad system) was improved. His successor Cipriano Castro came to power on October 22nd 1899 by a coup and after modifying the constitution (1904) became president for the period 1904-1911, designating Juan Vicente Gomez his "compadre" as vice-president.

Cipriano Castro
Cipriano Castro

Juan Vicente Gómez
Juan Vicente Gómez

In 1908 while Castro was in Paris, Gomez overthrew him becoming the most powerful, personal and absolute "caudillo" in Venezuelan history. The main aspects of Gomez administration were the clearance of the public economy, the creation of the military school and the beginning of the oil exploitation. This dictatorship, which lasted until Gomez death, was both the climax and the epilogue of the "caudillismo" age.

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