Today in Latin America, the death of José Félix Ribas

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José Félix Ribas, a leader of Venezuelan independence from Spain, died today in 1815 (94 years ago). This post is two fold: one, to understand a fascinating time, two, to educate myself further on the early independence movements in Latin America and the new scholarship that is now emerging.

Ribas was born to a moderately wealthy family in Caracas in 1775 but, by the late 1800s, was deeply involved with republican ideals (he married Simón Bolívar’s aunt) and was associated with the Conspiracy of 1808, something Bolívar did not support.

Yet, it was in 1808 that events in Spain, still in control of most of now Latin America, began to spiral out of control. Napoleon forced Spanish king Carlos IV to abdicate his throne for his son, Fernando VII. Napoleon, however, just arrest both and put his brother Joseph on the throne. In Spain, Spaniards were outraged and formed juntas in the name of Fernando. Juan de Casas, the governor of the United Provinces of Venezuela, openly supported Fernando, but did not go far enough to create an independent country, a move that many, including Ribas and Bolívar, were calling for.

By 1810, revolution (in the American sense of the word) was in the air. Ribas traveled Caracas demonstrating against the Spanish and influencing others to join in. By April of that year, the government had moved and Ribas joined the interim government and took charge of Caracas.

Ribas fought in la Campaña Admirable and La Victoria. It was Ribas’ competition with Jose Thomas Boves, the brutal military leader and Royalist supporter of Spainish hegemony in Venezuela, that he remembered for to this day. It was at the Battle of Urica, in 1814, that Boves lost his life under the command of Ribas. But it was short lived, he’d soon be on the run – betrayed by a slave. Ribas had his head severed for his transgressions, fried on cooking oil, and sent back to Caracas where it was displayed in a cage.

Time got the better of Ribas. Hugo Chávez holds Ribas in high regard when speaking of “Bolivarian” revolution and principles. Mission Ribas, named after José Félix, has focused on providing high school to those who have had to drop out. Only time will tell, like the legacy of Ribas in Venezuelan history, if Chávez’s “Missions” will be successful.

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~ by Daniel on January 31, 2009.

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