Subversive Pastimes: Reading the Declaration of Independence

The parchment in that gilded cage was signed in this day in 1811. It's the document meant to be commemorating today, on Cinco de Julio. Nobody ever reads it. We thought we'd give it a try. 

It is contrary to order, impossible to the Government of Spain, and fatal to the welfare of America, that the latter, possessed of a range of country infinitely more extensive, and a population incomparably more numerous, should depend and be subject to a Peninsular Corner of the European Continent.

Meeting in the Santa Rosa de Lima chapel (back then sadly devoid of a proper Sala de Fiestas) in Central Caracas, 40 lawmakers representing seven provinces of the Captaincy General Of Venezuela declared their will to separate from the Spanish Crown in the wake of the abdications of Bayonne

Mutatis mutandi (“Cuba” for “Spain”, “Islander” for “Peninsular”, etc.), the Declaration they signed might have been written yesterday.

These days, of course, the text is online — not that anybody ever reads it. As it turns out you can find not just the original in Spanish (here) but also even an English translation *(here.)

Two centuries on, it’s a disquieting read.

Without taking the least notice of our reasons, without presenting them to the impartial judgment of the world, and without any other judges than our own enemies, we are condemned to a mournful incommunication with our brethren; and, to add contempt to calumny, empowered agents are named for us, against our own express will, that in their Cortes they may arbitrarily dispose of our interests, under the influence and force of our enemies.

Empowered agents named against our own will to dispose of our interests in their arbitrary Courts? Are you kidding me?

Juan Germán Roscio and Francisco Isnardi never met Maikel Moreno or Katherine Haringhton, but they would’ve recognized them in an instant. Time passes, the archetype remains.

The Declaration’s style even sounds like something Henry Ramos Allup may have written for one of his speeches during his AN presidency.

The déjà vu comes thick and fast as you read it. The document even nails chavismo’s idea of fair elections:

In order to crush and suppress the effects of our Representation, when they were obliged to grant it to us, we were submitted to a paltry and diminutive scale; and the form of election was (…), degraded by the despotism of the Governors: which amounted to an insult to our plain dealing and good faith, more than a consideration of our incontestible political importance.

But wait, there’s more:

Always deaf to the cries of justice on our part, the Governments of Spain have endeavoured to discredit all our efforts, by declaring as criminal, and stamping with infamy, and rewarding with the scaffold and confiscation, every attempt, which at different periods some Americans have made, for the felicity of their country: as was that which lately our own security dictated to us, that we might not be driven into a state of disorder which we foresaw, and hurried to that horrid fate which we are about to remove for ever from before us. By means of such atrocious policy, they have succeeded in making our brethren insensible to our misfortunes; in arming them against us; in erasing from their bosoms the sweet impressions of friendship, of consanguinity; and converting into enemies a part of our own great family.

206 years on, the playbook hasn’t changed. There’s something deep in our political DNA that insists on instituting tyranny by harvesting the resentment of a generation ignored by traditional elites and turning brothers into enemies.

Realistas vs Republicanos, Federales vs Conservadores, GNB vs Guarimberos, we seem destined to fight a never-ending Independence War against ourselves.


Juan Carlos Gabaldón

Medical doctor from Merida, currently studying Medical Parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine