Portrait of Santiago Mariño by painter Martín Tovar y Tovar, oil on canvas, 1874
|Born||25 July 1788
Island of Margarita, Venezuela
|Died||4 September 1854 (aged 66)
La Victoria, Aragua state, Venezuela
|Rank||Chief of the General Staff|
|Battles/wars||Battle of Bocachica
Battle of Carabobo
|Other work||Ministry of War and Navy (1830s)|
Santiago Mariño Carige Fitzgerald (25 July 1788 in Valle
Santiago Mariño Carige Fitzgerald (25 July 1788 in Valle Espíritu Santo, Margarita – 4 September 1854 in La Victoria, Aragua), was a nineteenth-century Venezuelan revolutionary leader and hero in the Venezuelan War of Independence (1811–1823). He became an important leader of eastern Venezuela and for a short while in 1835 seized power over the new state of Venezuela.
His father was the captain of the «Santiago Mariño de Acuña» militias and «Lieutenant Greater Justice of the Gulf of Paria«. His mother, Atanasia Carige Fitzgerald, of Creole and Irish descent, was from Chaguaramas in the island of Trinidad, where his parents resided while he was a boy. He had a sister, Concepción Mariño. Due to his parents’ wealth he was well educated. After his father’s death in 1808, he moved to the island of Margarita (about 250 km west of Trinidad, off the Venezuelan coast), to take possession of his inheritance.
Mariño was also one of the greatest figures in the history of Freemasonry in Venezuela, although he was apparently initiated in Trinidad. He was awarded the title of «Serenismo Gran Maestro del Gran Oriente Nacional» (‘The Most Serene Grand Master of the Great National East», a title equivalent to the modern Grand Master).
Napoleonic Wars: War of Spanish Independence (1808–1814)
The rise of the revolutionary movement in Venezuela was strongly influenced by the confusing and rapidly changing situation in Spain. Spain was initially against France in the Napoleonic Wars, but in 1795 France declared war on Spain which concluded an alliance with France and declared war on Great Britain. The British responded by blockading Spain, whose colonies were for the first time cut off from their colonial rulers, and began to trade independently with Britain.
British support for the Venezuelan revolutionaries from Trinidad
Thomas Picton, the first British Governor of Trinidad after the capitulation of the Spanish, who held office from 1797–1803, was a great support to the revolutionaries or «Patriots» in Venezuela. Soon after becoming governor, he issued a proclamation on 6 June 1797, based on suggestions from Britain, which stated:
- «The object which at present I desire most particularly to bring to your attention, is the means which might best be adopted to liberate the people of the continent near to the Island of Trinidad from the oppressive and tyrannic system which supports with so much vigour the monopoly of commerce…. In order to fulfil this intention with the greater facility, it will be prudent for your Excellency to animate the inhabitants of Trinidad in keeping up the communication which they had with those of Tierra Firma previous to the reduction of that Island, under assurance that they will find there an entrepot or general magazines of every sort of every sort of goods whatsoever. To this end His Britannic Majesty has determined in Council to grant freedom to the ports of Trinidad, with a direct trade to Great Britain….»
Ironically, the 1807 devastating defeat of the British invasions of the River Plate in South America, largely by local militias, encouraged a more independent attitude in Spain’s American colonies.
Spanish power weakens, paving the way to Independence
After the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805), Spain changed sides again, only to realign itself with France after Napoleon defeated Prussia in 1807. However, Spain was had been severely weakened by all these wars, opening an opportunity for the revolutionaries in South America.
Following this, the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, was deposed by Napoleon in 1808. He had been on the throne just 48 days after his father Charles IV abdicated in his favor. He was replaced by Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoleon, who ruled as king of Spain from 6 June 1808 to 11 December 1813. A «Supreme Central Junta» was formed to govern in the name of Ferdinand, marking the beginning of Spain’s War of Independence from French domination.
Joseph Bonaparte and his brother, Napoleon, led a long and bitter war against the British forces under the Duke of Wellington, culminating in Napoleon being forced to allow the reinstatement of Ferdinand VII on 11 December 1813, who ruled Spain until his death in 1833.
On 19 April 1810 the city council or cabildo of Caracas reformed itself as a Junta, soon to be followed by the provincial centres such as Barcelona, Cumaná, Mérida, and Trujillo. They saw themselves as allied with the Junta of Seville which ruled in the name of the king. Simón Bolívar saw the setting up of the Junta as a step toward outright independence.
Ports were opened to international trade, particularly with Britain which received preferential treatment, paying 25% less tax than other nations. The young Bolívar went to London and Mariño to Port of Spain (Trinidad) to seek support if Venezuela was attacked and to pressure the Spanish grants special privileged. This was difficult to do as Britain and Spain were allies, but he was given promises of future trade concessions. Spain viewed these developments with alarm and, in 1810, declared the popular party rebels, the province was treated as enemy territory and its ports were blockaded. Sir Thomas Hislop
The Royalists held Guyana and the Orinoco Delta, while the rebel Patriots held the coasts from Maturín to Cape la Peña.
In late 1812 Mariño joined Colonel Manuel Villapol, who marched to Guayana. Excelling in combat, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Some months later he was appointed Commander of Güiria, bravely defending that centre of the Royalists’ assault, and was promoted to the rank of colonel.
The Venezuelan War of Independence occurred while the Spanish were preoccupied with that of New Granada and Spain. On 17 December 1819 the Congress of Angostura established Gran Colombia‘s independence from Spain.
After the Battle of San Mateo, the Republic collapsed, and Francisco de Miranda capitulated to Monteverde, signing an armistice on 25 July 1812. Mariño’s Venezuelan Patriots who survived either fled or were imprisoned. Mariño himself retired to a property owned by his sister, in Trinidad.
Mariño’s invasion of Venezuela
Mariño was informed of the ill-treatment that befell Miranda and the other patriotic men, by the Royalist leader General Monteverde, who violated the terms of the armistice by imprisoning many Venezuelans. Indignant at such abuse, Mariño assembled an expeditionary force of 45 Patriots on the small island of Chacachacare off the coast of Trinidad. Among this small group which were the future Generals José Francisco Bermúdez, Francisco Azcue and Manuel Piar. With that handful of revolutionaries with a few muskets, they crossed the Gulf of Paria in canoes, and landed on the coast of Venezuela on 11 January 1813.
Just prior to Mariño’s force leaving, the Governor of Trinidad, General Hector William Munro intent on proving Trinidad’s neutrality, sent a detachment of the 1st West India Regiment to the tiny island of Chacachacare to investigate claims that a military force was gathering there and to disperse it peacefully, if possible. They returned to report they had discovered nothing, but Munro issued a Proclamation stating that the Government of Trinidad was strictly neutral, and officially banished Mariño from Trinidad (after he had left) and seized the property of all those involved with the affair.
The tiny invasion force captured Guiria, a small town on the gulf coast of Venezuela. Fortunately for them, the main body of 500 Royalist troops had recently moved inland, leaving only the local militia which was quickly overcome.
News of the victory spread quickly and Mariño was soon leading a force of 5,000 men armed and equipped with supplies captured at Guiria. They then marched against Maturín on the Rio Guarapiche. Apparently, Bolívar was pleased that the Royalists would now have to fight on two fronts but he wanted to liberate Caracas before Mariño was able to do so.