On Friday, April 29, the symbolic remains of Manuel Piar (1774-1817), a hero of Venezuelan independence struggle, were laid to rest at the National Pantheon of Venezuela. The ceremony was led by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who approved the transfer of the remains on June 18, 2021. Piar’s remains were placed in the National Pantheon on the 248th anniversary of his birth in Willemstad, Curaçao. To this day, Piar is immensely admired in Venezuela and especially by the people of Bolívar state.
One of the biggest controversies in Manuel Piar’s life was his death by firing squad, which occurred on October 16, 1817. This was the year the Cariaco Congress sought to demote Liberator Simón Bolívar and place Santiago Mariño as General-in-Chief of the Army. Piar decided to accept the mandate and this unleashed a series of events that led to him being discharged and then arrested for allegedly attempting a pardo and indigenous rebellion. For this, Piar was charged by a court-martial.
Consequently, Piar, who has been named the “Liberator of Guayana” and who was proclaimed a hero on April 11, 1817, for his exploits in the Battle of San Félix—which allowed Simón Bolívar to take control over the Orinoco River—was shot as a “traitor” six months later.
These events were also influenced by complex issues about Piar’s pardo origin—he was the son of mulatta María Isabel Gómez and Canarian Fernando Piar Lotín, which reflect the social class antagonisms and contradictions at the time of independence, as well as a desire of the criollo whites to preserve power and fend off possible mestizo rebellions. At the time, memories of José Tomás Millán Boves’ influence were still fresh in the minds of the elites.
During the ceremony on Friday, Omar Hurtado, a historian of the National Center for History, explained, “It is not true that Piar was a traitor. Piar simply had a different conception of war. He did not have the continental vision of the Liberator, because it was in San Félix where independence of South America was born. From there, the brilliant campaigns in New Granada, such as that of Carabobo, took place and culminated on December 8, 1824 in Rincón de los Muertos, that is, in Ayacucho. That vision was not Piar’s.”
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“I want to say today,” added Hurtado, “in front of the symbolic remains of General Piar, that his example invites us to unite, to reconcile, among Venezuelans. His life is an example of absolute fidelity to a cause, and he never said a word against the Liberator. There is his proclamation, his speeches, his work. Piar was profoundly Bolivarian, but he did not share the vision of the continental war. Are differences in politics not natural? And in times of war, much more.”
Hurtado also does not agree with the belief that Bolívar ordered Piar’s shooting.
“Nor is it true that the Liberator sacrificed Piar,” continued Hurtado. “Piar was tried by a military court, formed in circumstances of war by a decree issued in 1813, and we are talking about events of 1817. Piar himself debunks the smear campaign that the unofficial historiography has been in charge of repeating. While detained on September 28, he writes to his former boss, General Mariño: ‘In these circumstances it is absolutely necessary that you send only one man to Venezuela. Naturally, General Bolívar is called to the supreme command. Let us unite, comrades and friends, with General Bolívar, who is in charge! Who will bring so many benefits to the Republic.'”
“With this letter,” considers Hurtado, “Piar debunks the unofficial propaganda campaign of a distorted history at the service of specific class interests. There was no confrontation between Piar and Bolívar. The Piar-Bolívar confrontation has been invented by historiographers who have been spilling ink for 205 years to hide their own anti-Bolivarian purposes.”
Maduro: Piar was a victim of the class struggle
President Nicolás Maduro, during his speech, also questioned why, if during the insubordinate Congress of Cariaco, there were many who participated and committed even more serious offenses against Bolívar than those of Piar, it was Piar who was sentenced to the worst punishment.
“It was all about class struggle,” said Maduro. “Piar had to pay for his role as leader of the pardos, the indigenous, and the mestizos. He paid for it because of intrigue and conspiracy. All voices united against him and created a de facto situation, from which our own Liberator Simón Bolívar could not escape in the midst of his pain. This is a bloody and painful episode in the history of Venezuela, which today we heal with the vindication of General Manuel Piar as a hero of our homeland, finally at home in the National Pantheon of Heroes. Today we heal the wound of history that was made against our pardo general, general of the people, revolutionary general.”
“Manuel Piar was thoroughly acquainted with the racism, exclusion and contempt of the ruling classes at that time, in his native Curaçao, and later in his adopted homeland of Venezuela,” Maduro added. “That led him to develop a body of ideas, identified innately, naturally, with the ideas of social equality and freedom inspired by the French Revolution. This led him to support the independence project of Gual and Spain, and to participate in the events on April 19, 1810.”
“The Bolivarian Revolution is experiencing an intense moment of clear definitions which were built during long periods of defeats, resistance, and partial advances,” the president continued, connecting Venezuela’s independence processes to its present-day struggle. “Our 21st century independence project is not exempt from contractions and weaknesses.” For this reason, Maduro exhorted the revolutionary people of Venezuela to get rid of the disfigured history surrounding Piar, in order to learn and to continue raising the flag of the revolutionaries.
The President exhorted those present at the ceremony to make “a great educational effort to know, interpret and praise the history of our heroes and heroines… Historical processes can never be interpreted as idyllic processes, free of contradictions and conflicts.”
The president stated that, ever since the true story of Piar’s struggle for the people and for the Bolivarian revolutionary ideals has been made known, the Venezuelan government strived to bring general Piar’s immortal remains to the National Pantheon, the place of rest for all independence heroes. “Going beyond the lies and manipulation, we promised to vindicate General Manuel Piar and now he is here at the National Pantheon.”
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Manuel Piar, known as the “undefeated generalissimo,” was the son of a mulatto mother, María Isabel Gómez, and a Canarian father, Fernando Piar Lotín. Due to his knowledge in navigation given to him by his father, Piar became a qualified navigator after studying at a nautical school in Puerto Cabello, obtaining the rank of second lieutenant.
Piar was also known as a strategist and the only hero to have obtained triumphs on both sea and land.
At the age of 23, Piar participated in the conspiracy of Gual and Spain, in La Guaira in July 1797. His military experience and inclination to freedom led him to join in the Independence of Venezuela after the events of April 19 1810, thus beginning his career in the Navy.
He participated in the Naval Battle of Sorondo, fought in the waters of the Orinoco River in 1812. Later, receiving the rank of Colonel, he was one of the signatories of the Chacachacare Act and one of the members of the liberation expedition that landed in Güiria in 1813. Piar accompanied Simón Bolívar when he arrived from Haiti in the first Expedition of Los Cayos in 1815, and then in the first siege of the Castle of Puerto Cabello.
Piar has been admired for his exploits in the Battle of San Félix (1817), which allowed Simón Bolívar to take control of the Orinoco River and to direct an expedition towards the Atlantic Ocean and upriver to Santa Fe, reaching the plain of Apure, thus contributing to the future glorious triumph in Carabobo (1821) where Venezuelan independence was sealed.
During the ceremony for Manuel Piar, President Nicolás Maduro was accompanied by the president of the National Assembly (AN), Jorge Rodríguez; the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), Gladys Gutiérrez; the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Pedro Calzadilla; the president of the Republican Moral Council and Comptroller General, Elvis Amoroso; the Ombudsman, Alfredo Ruiz; and the Attorney General, Tarek William Saab.
Featured image: President Nicolás Maduro during the ceremony at the National Pantheon in honor of independence hero Manuel Piar. Photo: Presidential Press.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/March 31, 2023
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/March 30, 2023
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