Sunday, October 21, 2012

¡Viva la Revolución!

October is National Hispanic Heritage Month, so why not write about la Revolución! But before you think I've turned into a pinko commie, hold on a second. Hispanic people have played an intricate part of American History since, well since its own Revolution. Most people know about famous Hispanics like David Farragut, Ceaser Chavez, Sonia Sotomayor, Roberto Clemente etc. But many do not know about those that helped in the creation of the United States of America.
Many Spaniards aided in the American quest for Independence. Such brave men like, Jorge Farragut,  Bernardo de Gálvez & Juan de Miralles to name a few. But what about Latin Americans? One of the most unknown heroes of both American and Latin American History is Francisco de Miranda. Miranda played a major role in fighting the British in the Spanish campaigns in Florida.But first a short biography on Miranda. He was born in Caracas, Venezula in 1750. He received the finest education but he and his family were kept out of the higher ranks of society because of their Canarian roots (People of the Canary Islands). He was an educated young man of the late 18th century, yet was treated as second class so it would it was natural for de Miranda to take an interest in the Glorious Cause of Independence.

Miranda made his way into the Spanish Army by 1771 and his interest for the American Revolution was being stoked. He was stationed in Spanish Louisiana in 1781 when he saw his first action in the war. The Spanish entered the war in 1779 and made short work of the British in the Southwestern part of the Colonies. In 1781, Miranda would take part in the Siege of Pensacola. There the Spanish not only took British West Florida but captured large quantities of British war materials and even a sloop of war. The battle secured the inner Gulf coast from further British Naval advances. After this, Miranda was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel under General l Juan Manuel de Cajigal y Monserrat. After their success at Pensacola, the Spanish pushed on. They went on to capture the British fort at the Bahamas (1782). The British commander John Maxwell high tailed it out of their when he saw the size of the invading Spanish forces. The jubilant Miranda carried the good news back his commanding officer Bernardo de Gálvez. Gálvez was enraged that he was not included in the invasion or even asked for the "okay", and had both Miranda and Cajigal jailed. He was released and would visit the newly forming United States in 1783. There he met key figures behind the Revolution: Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson & most importantly Thomas Paine. But why is Miranda not celebrated in American History or even in Latin American History? The answer lies in several colliding reasons.

Miranda learned a lot from his time in the Spanish Army, fighting in the Revolution, and from his meeting with Americans. The these three reasons are why Miranda is not a household historical name here in the States. After his release from prison the ideas of Independence stuck with him. He then traveled through Europe where the ideas of the Founding Fathers also continued to ring in his head. Miranda partook in the French Revolution where Thomas Paine's ideas of universal human rights would continue to push Miranda towards his destiny. The idea that all men are created equal stayed in his heart and he turned to help his own people in South America. He wanted to free them from the oppression of Spanish rule. He spread the ideas of Independence through out his travels in South America and would return to his native Venezuela to fight in the fight for Venezuelan Independence. However, Miranda would be turned over to the Spanish during the war and would die in a military prison in Cadiz. Nonetheless, his ideas struck a cord in Latin American History. He shared his ideas with the great Simon Bolivar and is still held in the highest of regards in Venezuela. In the States he has been immortalized on the streets of Philadelphia with a monument in Center City. The legacy of Francisco de Miranda is the following: he was an idealist, with the idea of spreading the Independence born in America throughout South America, he was a war hero and martyr for the Cause, within fourteen years of his death in 1816 almost all of South America was independent from it's European colonizers. The man was best immortalized in the words of Simon Bolivar,

"Miranda was a man of the eighteenth century whose genius lay in raising the consciousness and confidence of his fellow Americans. Although he prided himself on being a soldier, his greatest battles were fought with his pen."

It is for these reason that Miranda is an excellent example of not only the spirit of American Independence, but that of the spirit of the Latin American people in their never ending quest for freedom, liberty, equality and universal justice.

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