In 1552, a slave revolt was led by a man known as Negro Miguel against Spanish slave owners at the San Felipe Mines, in Yaracuy Province, Venezuela. We do not know much about Miguel’s early life, but he was an enslaved African born in Puerto Rico in 1510. Slaveowner Damian del Barrio owned Miguel at the time, he transported Miguel to Venezuela to work the gold mines of San Felipe. Miguel became the property of Pedro del Barrio following the passing of Damian del Barrio. Pedro was the son of Damian. Miguel was a strong man but mostly known for his rebellious nature, intelligence, and quick wit.
One day while Miguel was working in the gold mines, an abusive foreman was upset with Miguel and wanted to punish him. His intention was to tie Miguel up so he could punish him, but Miguel was strong enough to wrestle the foreman to the ground and take away the foreman’s sword. After taking the sword, Miguel was able to fight off the foreman and escape into the Cordillera de Merida mountains. Miguel was able to convince a few people to escape into the mountains with him. They used the mountains as their base where they created a Maroon community. Miguel and 19 other people were a part of the newly formed Maroon community of Buria, and they were the 20 people to raid the mines of San Felipe. They were able to overtake the Spanish guards and foremen, take their weapons, and gain full control of the mines. After capturing the mines, the former slaves punished the guards and foremen in the same fashion as they were punished before executing the guards and foremen.
Following the raid of the mines, the Maroons continued to raid plantations freeing as many people as possible and leading them back to the Maroon community. Miguel became the King of the Maroon community of Buria, his wife was the Queen, and his son was the Prince. The legend of Miguel was growing while the Spanish were becoming more upset with opposition to their colonization. The Spanish wanted to delete the Maroons of Buria. Miguel led the Maroons to several victories against the Spanish. They would use various battle tactics to intimidate and neutralize the Spanish.
In 1555, the Maroons gained a victory over the Spanish in the city of Barquisimeto. They were able to burn down a church, kill a number of Spanish settlers, and kill a Spanish priest. The Spanish and the Maroons were at war from 1552 to 1555. Late in 1555, the Maroons faced the Spanish led by Captain Diego de Losada at Barquisimeto. The Spanish troops outmatched the Maroons and defeated them. During the defeat, Miguel was killed, Maroons who were not killed were captured and severely punished for their involvement in the rebellions. The name Negro Miguel became an iconic name amongst the enslaved and indigenous populations of Venezuela. He was a regular man who refused to be abused and remain enslaved. He took his life into his own hands and literally look his freedom from the abusive slavemaster. He was able to create the Marron community of Buria and free as many people as possible. Miguel de Buria aka Negro Miguel, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
J. A. Ward
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