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3: "War to the death" and the meeting at Santa Ana

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Spaniards and Canarians(1)—You will be shot,
even if found innocent, if you do not take an active
part on behalf of the Freedom of the Americas;
Americans—Your life will be spared, even if you are
found guilty."
Trujillo, June 15, 1813


So reads the concluding sentence of the famous "Wat to the Death" proclamation issued by the Liberator in retribution for the atrocities which were being committed by the Spanish armies against the hapless populace of Venezuela. For three years the Spanish armies in Venezuela had resorted to terror and slaughter to crush the incipient revolt of the natives against their oppressors. When they entered a town that had sided with the patriots, looting and rape, destruction by fire, and wholesale massacre of the inhabitants took place. And, to set an example of the punishment awaiting anyone sympathetic to the revolution, the captured leaders were beheaded and their heads, placed in iron cages, were left to rot under the searing tropical sun, hanging in the main square amid the ruins of the town, or on trees along the highways. Bolívar had tried countless times to persuade the Spanish Generals to stop their savagery and to adopt more humane methods of fighting the patriots, but it was to no avail.

In 1820, when this bloody nightmare had been going on for ten years, there occurred in the Spanish Peninsula a development which was extremely fortunate for the patriots' cause, and helped to change these conditions completely. Through a military uprising, a political revolution against the dictatorial powers of the Spanish monarchy compelled King Ferdinand VII to relinquish his absolute powers and return the rule of the country to the Charter of the Constitution of 1812. Accordingly, Parliament was quickly convened, and one of its first measures was to try to re-establish the domination of Spain in the Americas, through conciliation and by means of an amnesty to the insurrectionists.

Misjudging the true spirit of the revolution in the South American colonies, the Spanish Parliament believed that consession to liberal institutions would be sufficient incentive to draw them back into the fold of their mother country. Instructions to this effect were forwarded to General Pablo Morillo (Count of Cartagena and Marquis de la Puerta), Supreme Commander of the Spanish armies in Tierra Firme (Venezuela and Colombia). As a first step, Morillo officially addressed the various patriot generals, proposing a suspension of hostilities while commissioners, to be appointed by both sides, explored the possible basis for a reconciliation.

On November 3, 1820, Bolívar, answering Morillo's communication, said in part, "...that he (Morillo) authorize his commissioners to conclude a `Truly Holy' treaty which would regulate the war of horrors and crimes that up to now have overwhelmed Colombia(2) with blood and tears. On the evening of November 25, 1820, the commissioners from both sides signed a six-months' armistice at Trujillo, the same city where seven years before Bolívar had been obliged to issue, with reluctance, his famous "" proclamation.

Immediately thereafter General Morillo expressed a great desire to meet personally with Bolívar at the neighboring village of Santa Ana, situated half-way between Trujillo, Bolívar's residence, and Carache, where Morillo was encamped with his troops.

General Daniel F. O'Leary, one of the Liberator's aides-de-camp, in describing the Santa Ana meeting, tells that on the morning of November 27, 1820, Morillo, escorted by a squadron of hussars and an entourage of forty to fifty high-ranking officers, arrived at the appointed place before Bolívar. Upon being informed by O'Leary, who was already there, that President Bolívar was coming to the meeting without a military escort and accompanied only by ten or twelve officers, Morillo immediately dismissed his hussars, and is said to have exclaimed, "My old enemy has triumphed over me in generosity!"

For the meeting, Morillo was attired in the full dress uniform of his high rank, his chest covered with medals and combat ribbons. Never having seen the Liberator before, he was surprised to discover, when the small group of patriots arrived, that General Bolívar, a rather small man, had come attired in a simple campaign uniform, wearing a fatigue cap, and riding a mule.

After both Generals had dismounted and embraced each other cordially, they headed for the best house in the village, where Morillo had arranged a plain but adequate military dinner in honor of his guest.

In a letter to Vice-President Santander, dated at Trujillo, November 29, 1820, the Liberator praised the extreme cordiality of the meeting and described the various toasts of the Spanish Generals at the dinner, three of which especially pleased him:


That of the Field Marshal Miguel de la Torre (soon to succeed Morillo in the Supreme Command of the Spanish armies), who toasted: "TO THE COLOMBIANS AND SPANIARDS, THAT TOGETHER THEY MAY MARCH EVEN TO HELL, IF NECESSARY, AGAINST THE TYRANTS AND DESPOTS I"

And the final toast by Colonel Tello, who said: "For the victories of Boyacá(3)—which have given freedom to Colombia!"

It is narrated that both Bolívar and Morillo, who during the vicissitudes of the military campaigns had experienced many sleepless nights, slept soundly the night of the meeting, occupying the same room. The next morning, before the two generals parted, never to see each other again, Morillo proposed the erection of a monument on the site where he had embraced his rival the previous day. The idea was put into action immediately, and a large angular stone was carried to the spot by the two generals, with the assistance of their entourage.

In a communication to his government after the Santa Ana meeting, Morillo(4)

wrote about Bolívar:

"Nothing is comparable to the restless activity of this man. His daring and talents are his best credentials, entitling him to maintain himself at the head of the revolution and the war; but, the truth is that through his noble Spanish lineage he posses characteristics and qualities that make him far superior to his associates. Bolívar is The Revolution!"

1. * Canarians: Natives of the Spanish Canary Islands, situated on the northwest coast of Africa, facing southern Morocco and Spanish Sahara.

2. * Colombia: The name given by Bolívar to the partially liberated territories of Nueva Granada and 'Venezuela.

3. On August 7, 1819 (the previous year), the victorious armies of Bolívar at Boyacá had liberated Nueva Granada (Colombia).

4. At the Santa Ana meeting, Bolívar was thirty-seven years of age, and Morillo forty-two. Morillo, who for nearly six years had been in command of the Spanish armies of Tierra Firme, returned to Spain on December 17th of that year (1820). He died in exile, penniless and forgotten, on July 27, 1837, at the age of fifty-nine.

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