General Victoriano Lorenzo’s Captors

The image is of Vicente Guerrero- an excellent example of a “pardo” soldier who rose through the ranks in the Mexican Revolutionary struggles against Spain to become President of the nation in 1829.

See The Majestic Life of President Vicente Guerrero

As General Victoriano Lorenzo awaited trial by a military court the Mulattos, who made up the troops who guarded him, acted as if he had been their most feared enemy. Many of them had fought against his army and had been summarily routed. However, they had been indoctrinated to be haters and killers of Indians. The Colombian army, in fact, was like almost all the armies of liberation in the countries surrounding the beautiful Andean mountains, hot and stalwart with the Creole spirit like the nearby volcanoes and glaciers.

 

Neither was the Padrino System going to be able to save the prisoner from this clear cut rush to justice. General Victoriano Lorenzo was a brave soul who did not owe his military success to the indoctrination of the traditional system of the Padrinos. This system had been originally designed to Christianize the “infidel” Indians and Negro slaves. According to historical sources the system required the parish priest to keep a dual listing of baptismal records.

One, “The Padrón de la Dignidad,” was kept secret and especially reserved for the names of the elites of the society. The godchildren, “ahijados,” of those individuals appearing on this list would have unwritten special rights and privileges whatever the color of their skin. Such privileges included, but were not limited to, the right to be educated, to be recommended to a post in the government or to be a conscript in the army, or, to be even recommended to the priesthood.

Unlike the North Americans army, which was largely segregated, the armies of the South Americans were almost entirely comprised of Mulattos, with a rare sprinkling of some black and Indian soldiers visible in uniform. The prestige of the uniform carried more weight, in fact, amongst the South American soldiers than it did amongst the blacks in the northern army. In fact, more than prestige the troops relished the opportunity to prove their bravery in battle thereby making rank up the ladder. It would have been inevitable that when someone such as General Manuel Carlos Piar or Victoriano Lorenzo made it up the ranks for their leadership and literary skills they would invariably make many enemies.

More importantly there were the material rewards at stake since any former army man could end up with large tracks of land and great prestige in his community where he would be recognized as a cherished vecino. This is in marked contrast to the Buffalo Soldiers of the US Army during the 1800’s, who had fought to colonize areas of the United States in which they would be prohibited from owning one square foot of land. These North American veterans would return home to a civilian population that was still virtually enslaved and was restricted even in their movements, education and social esteem and who were denied the right to vote.

But the “Buffalo Soldiers” of the Colombian Army were mostly illiterate men, who were indoctrinated to follow orders and could be court marshaled and executed at the whim of the officers. So, on the one hand the common soldier in the Americas could look forward to gaining privileges and benefits and yet remain as illiterate as the rest of the population of Colombia, Panama, or any of the Spanish speaking countries of the Americas of the time.

After General Lorenzo was detained his captors left him to the charge of the troops who humiliated him, throwing his meals to him as they would a dog. Victoriano, however, knew enough about them all to forgive them. Even in the face of death he was demonstrating more Christian values than the men who had granted him the opportunity to become a Christian.

This story will continue.

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