Photo: VenezuelaTuya.com

In order to understand the Battle of Carabobo, we have to consider two crucial events: the rebellion of general Rafael de Riego in Cadiz, in January, 1820, when he refused to sail to Venezuela with an army of 20,000 men and forced Ferdinand VII to abide by the Constitution of Cadiz of 1812; and the signing of the Armistice between Simón Bolívar and Pablo Morillo, in the town of Santa Ana, Trujillo, on November 25, 1820. Morillo knew that the war had been lost due to Riego’s insurrection, that the royalists who remained, along with most of the Venezuelan members of his troops, were doomed to fail without reinforcements that would never come.

The ceasefire was agreed for six months and the Spanish defeat was the headline for the Treaty, which read: “And his Excellency the President of Colombia, Simón Bolívar, as Commander in Chief of the Republic.” The Republic’s existence was acknowledged, which had never been before, and its President was called “Excellency.” Spain acknowledged its defeat. However, South America still had to see four more years of battles for that defeat to be complete.

Morillo took his papers and gave command to Miguel de la Torre. He sailed to Spain on December 17, 1820 and died in France many years after his nearly six-year-long adventure in America. Meanwhile, the liberal experience in Spain lasted until April, 1823, when Louis XVIII sent troops to restore Ferdinand VII’s absolute power. Riego was then executed, the liberals persecuted and despotism ascended the throne again.

But America was already lost.

The Republic’s existence was acknowledged, which had never been before, and its President was called “Excellency.”

It’s evident that the last straw for the royalists was Riego’s rebellion in Spain, since it prevented the only promising exit they had in America: the arrival of reinforcement. Nevertheless, bolivarian panegyrists tend to make shy, veiled or purposefully diminished mentions of this. Obviously, that event doesn’t contribute to the glory of patriots, but it’s unavoidable from an honest perspective on the study of historical events. After the Armistice in Trujillo in November, 1820, the royalist defeat was a matter of time, since they were fighting for survival and without hope of getting backup, clinging to honor and without alternatives. What could they do? Surrender?

In January, 1821, Bolívar was in Bogota, determined to coordinate administrative affairs with Vice-president Santander while consolidating his army for when the ceasefire was meant to expire, six months later. However, the situation escalated when general Rafael Urdaneta took Maracaibo on March 8, 1821, answering his people’s call as they joined the republican project. Meanwhile, de la Torre said the Armistice had been violated. Bolívar returned to Venezuela on April 28, formally breaking the Armistice and preparing the final battle that wasn’t such, as we’ll soon see.

Bolívar commanded Páez to advance from Apure to the central region and Ambrosio Plaza occupied Barinas before also mobilizing to the central region. Bermúdez started his famous diversion, meaning that he marched to Caracas in order to keep part of the royalist army engaged in defending it, while the patriot armies marched toward Carabobo. Urdaneta took Barquisimeto and made his way to San Carlos. Both armies are ready for battle at dawn, on June 24, 1821, and I don’t need to describe what happened.

This was a fatal blow for the royalists, but still almost 60 minor clashes took place before the last battle in the Maracaibo lake.

De la Torre, with Morales and Montenegro Colón, led the royalist army. Most of their soldiers were Venezuelan; few remained of those who arrived with Morillo in 1815, there were 5,000 men, while the patriot army had about 7,000 soldiers. The patriot victory was complete and the remainder of the royalist army retreated to Puerto Cabello, chased down by Rangel. This was a fatal blow for the royalists, but still almost 60 minor clashes took place before the last battle in the Maracaibo lake, on July 25, 1825, the actual final confrontation.

The reader might ask, why is the Battle of Carabobo considered the last battle when it wasn’t? Well, the odds of recovery for the royalists were nonexistent afterwards and it was the last battle where Bolívar was present. The remaining royalists fought for two more years until finally defeated at the naval battle, with Páez forcing de la Calzada to capitulate in Puerto Cabello, 1823. Something similar happens with Colombia’s history: Boyaca wasn’t the last nor the most important battle, but it marked the start of the royalist decline in Nueva Granada’s northern area, and this victory opened Bogota to the patriots. Both battles established essential milestones that also contribute to the formation of a national mythology.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Good piece of history. But was this the beginning of what end? Why is that after Spain left, Venezuela started this mess? Especially at the end of the 19th century and then again at the beginning of the 20th? Concluding with the socialism of the 21st century from which there is no end to the end.

    • because all the caudillos and warlords that fought for independence were actually doing it to expand their own feudal domains and used their mercenary and bandit armies to inmediatly start killing each other in a zero sum game for power over territory the minute spanish rule left, enter the civil war.

      It was all about warlords and their mercenary armies. just like in Africa. Proceres were power hungry little megalomeniacs , not freedom fighter nor heroes of liberty. The few that were were betrayed, killed , imprisoned or exiled by Bolivar. King Asshole

  2. With everything that’s going on in Venezuela this is an article that I for one didn’t need to read. What a waste of time and space.

    • Some people are interested in this stuff. But I also don’t see the point of going back two centuries unless you make SOME attempt to tie it in with today’s situation.

      And I’m generally suspicious of those attempts as well, over reliance on old history to explain current history.

    • is important because europe loosing control over its colonies worldwide was an historically huge blow for civilization and the start of the downhill trend in latam that snowballed into what we see today and the tumor of third world marxism that is spreading to the firsts world.

  3. You might want to read Conquer or die, by Hughs about the foreign mercenaries who also took part in that battle and were crucial.

    But if you are into history I hope some Venezuelan historian goes to tackle the Caracazo.
    Some of us have mentioned already how the extreme left did everything it could to promote looting and make the military shoot people. Probably some of those military who shot civilians were
    among the MVR.

    One thing to take into account is Chavismo did everything it could to prevent any independent investigation on the subject as it used those events to justify its bloody coups of 1992.

    Any Venezuelan who was a teenager or older at that time knows we could hardly do anything without an id back then…and most Venezuelans have families who would miss them.

    Chavismo used one single source of information from a very badly written report to claim there were at least a few thousands of people killed during those day.

    We have no list but for about 200+. I believe almost all of the others did never exist.

    Unfortunatelly historians are not likely to touch this subject for fear of minimizing the tragedy that did happen.

  4. Good history lesson, when Venezuelans were willing to fight for something, a better future instead of only over scraps or CLAPS.. bueh.. perro marico la clima es bien vamos pa’ plaja!

  5. 200 years on this event, and Venezuela’s fate still sits with the King Maduro.

    What is the difference? Rules of law made up by the whim, voting has become “voting”… all aspects of governance beholden to Chavismo’s heirs.

    Benjamin Franklin in the USA at its founding referred to this… “a republic, if you can keep it”.

  6. Facinating bit of historical narrative , Arraiz Lucca exposes how events that might look irrelevant when looked without the lens of historical insight , were really decisive for what came afterwards …….it may be that things are happening right now affecting the situation of the regime that we dont recognize as having a decisive effect on Venezuelas fate but which will inevitably lead to change we cant clearly recognize in the present.

    I have a small quibble with a detail in the narrative and that is that Riegos rebellion made patent that Spain was in the throes of an inner period of deep turmoil (liberal forces vs absolutist monarchists) which would cause her not ro pay that much attention to what was happening in her belegueared colonies , thus any effort at effecting the full recovery of her american colonies would be put in the back burner . I understand that Morillo himself was secretly simpathetic to the liberal movements in Spain creating a division among the loyalist armies in america that could only weaken their effectiveness ….Mexicos thriumphant loyalist were inspired by their fear of a liberal spain to turn sides and seek Mexican independence from spain ……, it wasnt just the spanish inability to launch a second expedition what sunk her cause, she still had plenty of forces to defend her cause in america …….but the inner will to continue the struggle was broken…

  7. I must correct the statement in my last comment that Morillo was simpathetic to those who favoured the constitution of 1812 , he was a professional soldier and did not take sides concerning that divisive issue , he was for obeying established authority whatever its nature ……, it was not a foregone conclusion that spain would lose her colonies if she did not send planned expedition but it certainly made clear that whatever resolve spain might have had to recover her control over the colonies no longer existed …internal affairs now occupied spanish minds almost exclusively , this being clear the loyalist became not only disheartened but begin to see that if the war turned against the spanish forces they might avoid any subsequent punishment by turning sides , Morillo did not need 20.000 men , just some reinforcements for the troops he had lost to tropical diseases ……..but the circumstances gave a clear message , spain was embroiled in her own conflicts and would not be counted upon to support the loayalist cause with any additional resources.
    By mere chance I have with me a very complete biography of Genral Morillo ‘Soldado de tierra y Mar’ by Gonzalo Quintero Saravia and have been able to check on how Morillo responded to the news of Riegos rebellion in Spain.

    • Just because I don’t really have anything much to say, and so maybe feel like having a bit of good sport with you, I wonder if the books you read mostly have any paragraphing and sentencing in them, or if they are for the most part streamed in single paragraph over the net through a software that carries with it somewhat unusual formatting, stripping out single periods, thereby producing a more continuous text flow for the convenience of, perhaps, programmers who conceive of the world as an infinite bitstream through space and time which if broken, would disrupt the ongoing conquest of information much as the rebellion of anti-monarchist thought in Spain deferred, indefinitely as it turned out, Royalist Spanish reinforcements from arriving in Venezuela, thus forever changing history, and permitting volunteer English forces to play a crucial role in the battle referred to in the article more than offsetting a regrettable misunderstanding between Don Bolivar and Gen. Miranda, an English role which though crucial was certainly not a single-handed victory, but was a coordinated flank movement contributing significantly to the frontal assault by the main body of Venezuelan forces which followed, and thus wrote history, a feat which could not have been accomplished with interrupted or parsed data flows concerning objectives, therefore prompting the authors of texts you read to similarly avoid like the plague any unnecessary parsing or interruption of text …? [breathe]
      Just curious, all in jest.

      • Ever read “El Otoño del Patriarca” by Garcia-Marquez? It’s an entire novel with, perhaps, a dozen periods! As an aside, Garcia-Marques intended it to be a condemnation of Caribbean-style facist dictators and claimed to have used Juan Vincente-Gomez (among others) as an inspiration for the main character, … but as I read it (in English, or rather, tried to read it!) it was faces from the rogues gallery of Chavismo that most readily came to mind (that, and the quirky lack of punctuation, was reason enough to stop reading it).

        • El Loro Grunon – Never tried; had not heard about his style. Disconcerting the way bad guys seem to do the same things the world over. Truth: I’m not read up on Gomez. His main faults seem to have been his inattention to education and a heavy hand, but I wonder how much Garcia-Marquez’ political leanings affected his analysis.

          Watching Russia v. Uruguay, I thought Russia would do better.

          • Juan Vicente Gomez was a tough guy but he lived in an era of tough guys and he did much of what needed to be done for example he paid the totality of the nations external debt.

            The nation of Venezuela owed a total estimate of zero fucking dollars at the time Gomez died at had strong reserves with virtually now inflation (thats what i call real autonomy, not this marxist bulshit rethoric about the bad gringos but still sucking their cock ),

          • J. – The left demonizes right wingers who kill a few thousand (who might well be anarchists or other wise antithetical to the nation), then the left says nothing in apology for killing millions and destroying economies creating scarcity.

            Not to spoil it for anyone who watches the replays either on TV or streaming on the internet, but Portugal is looking good. Spain v. Morocco is tight. Anyone with one of those old-fashioned shortwave transistor radios with a good antenna can probably pick up broadcasts of the games from Colombia. I think it’s shortwave – Zenith used to make portable transistor (battery operated) radios that would pick up some U.S. stations. Today, try searching for similar and you get referrals to internet streaming of foreign radio, “broadband” refers to fiber-optic cable (or something like that), and I wonder if anyone still makes battery operated radios you can carry in your pocket. It’s all cell phones now, stream BBC on your phone.

          • More venezuelans probably die under socialism in just one month victims of violence per 1000 habitants than in the entire reign of gomez that lasted decades.

            He lived in an era of world conflicts, under development, violent coups and bloddy insurgencies where civil wars and invasions where the daily bread, yet venezuela remained a safe and peaceful country.

            He of course gave the people such capitalistic oppresive evils as electricity, running water, and roads, like all “crazy murdering fascistic megalomaniacs” that came before and after.

  8. But in real news:

    Did you know that the governmentis currently blocking ALL porn portals like xvideos, pornhub, etc, etc in venezuela and is impossible to access them using Cantv connection (except with vpn )

    Maybe this is what finally sparks the rebellion

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