Spanish American Patriots in New York

In 1784, at the very moment that Spain was establishing a New York presence, Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda arrived in town to seek backing from prominent citizens “for the liberty and independence of the entire Spanish-American Continent." He returned in 1806 to raise a military expedition to Venezuela. The mission failed but dampened neither Miranda’s commitment nor New Yorkers’ enthusiasm for the cause of independence to the south. Miranda died in a Spanish jail, but his determination inspired independence leaders such as the Argentinean José de San Martín and the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar.
 
The Spanish American wars for independence lasted fifteen terrible years, from 1810 to 1825. Unlike their northern neighbors, the rebels fought to win an entire continent. In the end, Spain lost all of its colonies except Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. The year 2010 marks the bicentennial commemoration of Spanish American independence. 

Georges Rouget (France, 1784–1869), photographed by Arnaudet, Francisco de Miranda general of the Army of the North 1792. Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles, France. Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY. Raised in Venezuela, Francisco de Miranda served in the imperial Spanish forces before embracing Enlightenment ideals of liberty and launching his lifelong campaign to liberate Latin America. Better at winning converts than battles, his wrenching losses in Venezuela in 1812 and friction with fellow independentistas led to Miranda’s imprisonment and death in a Spanish prison. 
Georges Rouget (France, 1784–1869), photographed by Arnaudet, Francisco de Miranda general of the Army of the North 1792. Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles, France. Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY.

'The Execution of ten of Miranda’s Officers,' Moses Smith, History of the Adventures and Sufferings of Moses Smith, during Five Years of his Life. Brooklyn: Printed by Thomas Kirk, Main-Street, for the author, 1812. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. Miranda’s New York volunteers claimed they knew little about their commander’s full purpose, but still, they sailed. Some may have risked all for political ideals; for others, like Moses Smith, “good pay and a fine uniform, lands and a horse” were enticement enough. Smith published this image in his memoirs following his release from prison.   
“The Execution of ten of Miranda’s Officers,” Moses Smith, History of the Adventures and Sufferings of Moses Smith, during Five Years of his Life. Brooklyn: Printed by Thomas Kirk, Main-Street, for the author, 1812. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

Pietro Tenerani (Italy, 1789–1869), Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), 1831. Painted plaster. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mr. Alexander H. Stevens, M.D., 1847.3. The Spanish American wars for independence got seriously underway in 1810 and ended in March 1825. Remarkably, the last battle took place in Potosí, Upper Peru, at the same “Cerro Rico” whose silver deposits had enriched the Spanish empire and altered the history of the world.
 
With independence achieved, Upper Peru was renamed Bolivia in honor of Simón Bolívar, Latin America’s most prominent general and leader.
Pietro Tenerani (Italy, 1789–1869), Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), 1831. Painted plaster. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mr. Alexander H. Stevens, M.D., 1847.3
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