This article examines the royalist forces that rose in defense of the colonial order in the southwestern region of New Granada, Colombia, a royalist stronghold where slaves and local Indians united with Spanish forces to fight against independence armies. Enslaved blacks and Indians were perceived by royalist elites as valuable allies, and for that reason elites were willing to negotiate and offer concessions to secure their loyalty. I describe the complex negotiations with Indians in terms of tribute payment, and with slaves over freedom, that have been left completely out of an independence narrative that has assumed that Indians and blacks participated as royalists exclusively as cannon fodder or always in disadvantageous terms. My contribution is specifically to provide insight into the ways in which Indians and slaves positioned themselves as political actors in the context of empire, and how their particular political histories determined their negotiation with royalist factions during the independence process, when, for both groups, militia service became an avenue for social mobility and provided new means of protecting and expanding their rights.

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