Sunday, July 28, 2013

Black Contributions to Peruvian Independence - July 28, 1871

In school I learned about the Boston Massacre, but not about Crispus Attucks as the first to die in that Massacre, not to mention all the other Black American revolutionaries who fought in the Continental Army to help the US win her independence until long after high school. However, I did learn about the South American liberator Simón Bolívar, but never learned about one of his chief lieutenants, a Black man by the name of Pedro Camejo. And of course, I never knew about General Vicente “El Negro” Guerrero who freed Mexico from Spanish rule, and later became Mexico's first Black president. I didn't learn any of these things until late in my adulthood as I began to do my own research. Just about every country in the western world, Blacks played a role in their respective country's independence, whereby many were able to earn their freedom from slavery.

As Perú celebrates her 191st anniversary as an independent nation on July 28, 2013, I had to dig for information about the Blacks who contributed to Peruvian independence because that information that is not readily available. Writers José Luciano and Umberto Rodriguez Pastor of Minority Rights Press disclosed in the book, No Longer Invisible - Afro-Latin Americans Today, a collection of works by scholars from Mexico and Puerto Rico, and all the down to Argentina about the Black history and experience in their respective countries. In the passage below, Luciano and Pastor discuss how slave rebellions and anti-slavery agitation helped lead to Peruvian independence from Spain:

In the central coastal region, the best-known refuge for runaway slaves was El Palenque Huachipa. Huachipa existed as a stronghold for escaped slaves for more than half a century, from 1712 to 1792, and its greatest leader was the well-known ex-slave Francisco Congo, also called Chavelilla.

On some occasions these African rebels created strong alliances with the indigenous population, such as that of the rebel Juan Santos Atahualpa and the indigenous chief Tupac Amaru in 1780. Their insurrection was the first to include the liberation of slaves as part of its demands.

The long struggle for freedom gradually combined with the criollo and mestizo struggle to liberate the cities from Spanish control. From the seventeenth to the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, then the majority of urban insurrections included in their demands the freedom of Afro-Peruvians, who were usually well presented among the participants.

Believing that the liberal ideas of the independence struggle would give them the freedom, equality and fraternity that for centuries had been denied them, Afro-Peruvians played a decisive role in the battles of Junin and Ayacucho (1824). Here the Husare del Perú battalion, formed of libertos, slaves and mestizos, won a decisive victory that helped secure not only independence of Perú but also that of the South American continent.