December 10, 1796, insurrectionary Jose Leonardo Chirino was hanged in Caracas for leading a slave revolt in Spain’s oppressive New World sugar plantations.
The influence of the Haitian Revolution, and the philosophical precepts of the French Revolution that had helped spawn it, sent waves through the Caribbean washing up on every shore it touched.
Most of those lands had a ready audience under the lash of European colonial masters; the eastern Venezuelan city of Coro, home to the sugar aristocracy and the groaning underclass that crop implied, must have had one of the readiest.
On May 10, 1795, Chirino — a Zambo of mixed African and Amerindian blood who was himself a free farmer — led an uprising of the Congolese slaves in the area who worked the sugarcane and declared a Republic under the “Law of the French,” with slavery and white privilege abolished.
More than three hundred blacks and ‘pardos’ were reported to have taken part of that rebellion led by, Josè Leonardo Chirino and Jozef Caridad Gonzales (both free men).
The origin of the uprising revived the actions of the African Cocofio, who since 1770 spread the rumor in this region of the existence of a cedule which suppressed slavery. After his death in 1792, that constant hammering on the liberty of the slaves were taken up again by African maroons coming from the Dutch, French and English colonies. Several hundreds of those maroons fleeing the foreign colonies sought refuge in the Coro region of Coro, where there existed different passages opening the way for the insular runaway enslaved Africans.
On May 10th of the year 1795, the region of Coro was widely taken. Several haciendas were looted, the white proprietors who tried to resist were killed. The insurgents spread themselves out in the city of Coro to plunder it. They openly proclaimed their objectives:
1) Application of the “French law”, meaning the establishment of a democratic républic;
2) Freedom of the enslaved Africans and abolition of slavery;
3) suppression of the duties paid for the indigenous people (demora) and the taxes such as “alcabala”;
4) Elimination of the white aristocracy .
The rebellion’s attempt on Coro itself failed, and it was swiftly put down by the colonial authorities. Though many involved were killed summarily, the Spanish took their sweet time after capturing Chirino in August 1795: only the following year was he transferred to Caracas for execution, after which his body was dismembered and his head set in an iron cage displayed on the road to Coro. (For good measure, they sold his family into slavery.)
There are two statues of Chirino, one at the Coro airport and one in Caujarao, Estado Falcón.
The port of Coro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/658