Celebratory Incongruity: 5th of July Is a Civilian —Not Military— Holiday

July 5, 1811 was a civilian event with hardly any military implications. Why is there a military parade when the military had nothing to do with it and when will we celebrate the civil ideas that defined our independence and forged the Republic?

Every year, a few days before July 5, military planes fly over Caracas. The usual comment within this context is “They’re rehearsing for the July 5 parade,” the traditional celebration that commemorates July 5, 1811. Military promotions take place on that day, too.

And yet, July 5, 1811, wasn’t the date of any military deed. On the contrary, it was essentially a civilian event with hardly any military implications.

See: On July 5, 1811, Venezuela declared its independence from the Spanish monarchy in the General Congress, the first civilian parliament installed in Venezuela (there are no military parliaments), which would go on to issue the first Venezuelan Constitution (third of the modern world, after the American and French) later that year.

And yet, July 5, 1811, wasn’t the date of any military deed.

But the Declaration of Independence is an argument for the political reasons why Venezuelan elites thought that after the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, there was no justification for the government of this “land of grace” to remain subject to the Spanish Crown. Neither Simón Bolívar nor José Antonio Páez, both soldiers, are signatories on the Declaration of Independence.

Therefore, despite what would seem as evidence in a country with a long history of military governments, the foundational event of this Republic was essentially civilian.

For instance, there are no references to “assymetrical wars” in this fundamental paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

“Considering all of these solid, public and undeniable political reasons, which so clearly show the need to recover the natural dignity that the order of events has restored for us, through the unalienable rights that all people have to destroy any pact, agreement or association that does not fulfill the purpose for which all governments are instituted; we believe that we cannot and should not preserve the ties that bound us to the Spanish government, and that, as all people in the world, we are free and able to forego dependency to any other authority but our own, and to take among the powers of the earth, the equal place that the Supreme Being and nature have reserved for us and to which the development of human events and our own benefit and utility inspire us.”

Venezuela’s formal declaration of independence from the Spanish Crown is signed in a room, not on a battlefield.

This reflects the best ideas of a modern civilian government and, as such, Venezuela’s formal declaration of independence from the Spanish Crown is signed in a room, not on a battlefield.

The document is particularly clear in its last paragraph:

“Thus, we, on behalf of and by the will and authority vested in us by the virtuous people of Venezuela, hereby solemnly declare to the world that its United Provinces are, and must be henceforth, in fact and in law, free, sovereign and independent States and that they are absolved from all submission and dependency to the Spanish Crown or to those who claim to be its representatives; and that as a free and independent State, it has full power to give itself any form of government that respects the general will of its people, declare war, make peace, form alliances, arrange agreements on trade, borders and navigation, make and execute all other acts that free and independent nations make and execute.”

It’s true that the process of independence, which was originally civilian, was later consolidated through a military process, but that has nothing to do with July 5; the military celebration which has become tradition, is in fact anachronistic. The main celebration should take place at the National Assembly, the successor of the General Congress, where independence was declared and the Declaration was signed.

Venezuela wasn’t born a military Republic: It was born from civilian ideas defended at the Santa Rosa de Lima Seminary Chapel, by civilians.

It shouldn’t be a military parade.