Perhaps no event in the history of eighteenth-century New Granada has attracted more attention than the Comunero Revolt of 1781. On the two hundredth anniversary of the most serious armed protest to occur in the viceroyalty before the Wars of Independence, historians continue to debate its significance. While some regard the rebels as reformists who sought the lowering of taxes without challenging Spain’s right to rule, others see them as precursors to political independence; still others argue that the insurrection was a would-be social revolution from below betrayed by those above. In his award-winning monograph, The People and the King, the late John Phelan takes a different tack by asserting that the conflict was essentially an acute political and constitutional crisis—a clash between the forces of imperial centralization and those of colonial decentralization. In the long run, he concludes, the Comuneros did not fail. Once the authorities had reestablished the principle of royal control, they set about making significant concessions to the sources of discontent that precipitated the crisis.1

Given the perennial interest generated by the revolt, it is surprising to find that one regional phase of it has gone largely unexamined. In the Llanos of Casanare on May 19, 1781, creole vecinos led by Javier de Mendoza seized the principal cities, abolished hated taxes, and deposed the governor. Calling himself the apoderado, or lieutenant, of the Inca Túpac Amaru (José Gabriel Condorcanqui), Mendoza raised an Indian army of 1,500 men and incited them to attack the clergy of the nearby towns. After the signing of the list of Comunero demands known as the Capitulaciones on June 6, he defied the orders of the Crown and the Comunero leaders in Socorro and continued to style himself captain general of the Llanos. For four months violence wracked the province. In the end, a private militia financed by one of the richest men in Santa Fé, the Marqués de San Jorge, was required to cross the Andean cordillera to restore order.2

An extended review of these events is long overdue. Placed in the context of the economic history of Casanare, it suggests that the antiwhite and “ferociously anti-clerical” behavior of the Indians was not a function of their imperfect hispanization, as Professor Phelan has proposed, but rather the result of systematic abuse of their labor in the cotton textile industry—a burden made intolerable by policies adopted by Regent Visitor General Juan Francisco Gutiérrez de Piñeres and Governor José Caicedo y Flores Ladrón de Guevara, and one that, at the instigation of the creole rebels who themselves had no love for the clergy, the Indians believed they could redress.

The general outlines of the Comunero Revolt in its broader context are well known. Its principal cause was the ruthless procedures introduced by Gutiérrez de Piñeres, whom the Crown sent to Santa Fé de Bogotá in 1779 to raise money for the recently declared war against Great Britain. In the absence of Viceroy Manuel Antonio Flores, who had stationed himself in Cartagena to supervise the defense of that important city, Gutiérrez de Piñeres increased the alcabala, or sales tax, from 4 percent to 6 percent. He boosted levies on salt, tobacco, and playing cards—all unpopular government monopolies—and imposed new taxes on cotton cloth. This severe program, which threatened to inflate the price of foodstuffs, consumer goods, and the costs of industry, was made doubly offensive by the harsh methods favored by the tax collectors, who did not scruple at extortion or rape.3

On March 16, 1781, rebellion flared in Socorro, where the regent’s policies combined with the recent institution of free trade to threaten what had been a flourishing textile industry. Refusing to pay the new taxes, about 6,000 insurgents attacked the government warehouses in the town, driving out the Spanish authorities, and then elected their own leaders. The initial movement was popular and predominantly creole. The leader was Juan Francisco Berbeo and his subalterns were small traders, farmers, and municipal officials. As the revolt spread to Tunja, Antioquia, Neiva, Pamplona, and Casanare, a number of Indians, encouraged by the example of Túpac Amaru in Peru, added their support.

By June 2, an army said to have numbered 20,000 angry people was assembling in the village of Zipaquirá, a day’s distance from Santa Fé, clamoring for the suppression of the tobacco monopoly and the abolition of many taxes and of the office of visitor general. Thoroughly alarmed, Gutiérrez de Piñeres reactivated the Junta Superior de Tribunales, a standing committee of the royal audiencia and the leading representatives of the fiscal administration, to arrange an agreement with the Socorranos before the latter forcefully imposed a settlement by invading the capital. When the chief negotiator for the Junta, Archbishop Antonio Caballero y Góngora, arrived in Zipaquirá, he received from Berbeo the Capitulaciones—a statement of thirty-five demands calling for administrative reforms, more opportunities for creoles, and better treatment for the Indians.4 Not wanting the conflict to escalate, and being defenseless against the ragged army, Caballero y Góngora signed the document on June 6. It was approved by the audiencia on the following day. Victory within grasp, Berbeo ordered his followers to disperse and yielded, along with many of his associates, to the authorities.

His triumph was fleeting. When news of the treaty reached Cartagena, Viceroy Flores categorically disavowed it and on July 6 sent 500 soldiers to Santa Fé to restore order. Led by the hot-tempered mestizo José Antonio Galán, those Comuneros who had not yet given up continued the struggle until Galán was captured in Onzaga, Santander, on October 13. With order restored, Viceroy Flores reimposed the hated taxes, and tried and executed Galán and three associates on February 1, 1782. Shortly thereafter, he resigned his post to accept a promotion to viceroy of New Spain. By July 1782 the Crown had appointed as his successor Caballero y Góngora. One of the first acts of the archbishop-viceroy was to issue a general pardon to all those involved in the revolt on August 7. Peace returned, but on the terms of the royal authorities, not those of the Comuneros.

The revolt, which rocked the heartland of New Granada, soon spilled out over the cordillera to engulf the Provincia de los Llanos, a vast, sparsely inhabited territory that encompassed the eastern slopes of the Andes and the grassy tropical plains of Casanare lying north of the Meta River. On May 19 creole citizens of the three Spanish cities of Pore, Santiago de las Atalayas, and Santa Rosa de Chire abolished the new taxes, the Indians’ tribute, and the alcabala. In Pore they deposed the cabildo and the tax administrators, forcing the alcabalero to return money he had recently collected. In the capital, Santiago, they ousted the cabildo and the governor, Don José Caicedo y Flores Ladrón de Guevara, who, warned in advance of the coming rebellion, prudently withdrew to his house in the town of Morcote.5

Don Francisco Javier de Mendoza, a native of Miraflores and owner of a cattle hato (“ranch”) on the banks of the Guachiría River, took command in Pore, assuming the titles of captain general and governor of the province. He received a commission as captain of the Común from the supreme council of war in Socorro. Of his creole colleagues, the records preserve only the names of Eugenio and Gregorio Bohórquez, co-captains of Chire. Gathering the Indians of Pore, Támara, Ten, Manare, and other towns, Mendoza freed them from paying tribute. Identifying himself as the apoderado of the Inca, he made them swear allegiance to the King of America, Túpac Amaru, unaware that he had been executed in Cuzco on May 15, and ordered them to obey the Comunero captains of Socorro. In each town, the Indians chose captains and officials of the Común, appointing women in those places where the men were away herding cattle.6

The proclamation in Pore and other nearby towns of a letter dated May 23 and signed by the Común of Cocuy further inflamed the Indians. Cocuy was a highland village north and east of Sogamoso, and the letter, addressed to the captains and lieutenants of Támara, Ten, and Manare, stated that Túpac Amaru had been crowned king and that he was going to do away with all taxes. It continued:

Thus, we advise you that if the governor attempts to impose the taxes, do not let him do it. If he tries to punish you, rise up against him. If they do not lift the taxes, we are going to Santa Fé de Bogotá to make war on the Santafereños. If you have not done what we told you to do by the time we return, we will make war against you.7

Indians from Támara read this letter in each town. They explained to the villagers that they did not have to attend Mass or catechismal classes unless they wished to because the priests could no longer oblige them to do anything. José Tapia, the vicar general of the Province of Santiago, witnessed this event in Morcote. In an emotional account of the rebellion, which he wrote on July 10 to Salvador Plata in Socorro, he stated that the Támaras had told him that the order was not from Cocuy, but had been drafted in Pore.8 This, too, was the opinion of Governor Caicedo, who, seeing that Mendoza intended to incite the Indians against him, quickly gathered his papers and fled Morcote for Socotá, leaving his less portable belongings with Tapia for safekeeping.9

On May 26, twenty Indians from Támara, Ten, and Manare, armed with bows and arrows, appeared in Morcote and attacked the governor’s abandoned house. They destroyed everything they could find and then attempted to enter the church to seize some banners. When the vicar general dissuaded them from that objective, they ordered him to surrender all property of the governor that remained in his possession. They threatened to cut him to pieces, to burn his house, and to carry him in ropes to Pore if he did not obey. Faced with these unappealing alternatives, Tapia agreed to hand over the goods. He asked them again on whose orders they were acting, and “all unanimously confessed that it was Don Javier de Mendoza.”10

Determined to apprehend Caicedo, the force, now swollen to 1,500 men, set out on the road to Pisba and Paya. Catching up with Francisco de Lara, who was escorting part of the governor’s property on muleback, they threw him off his mount, tied him up, and dragged him on to the jail in Pisba, where they also attacked the house of the priest. Continuing to Paya, they taunted the cura of that village and confiscated the property of the estanquero and asentista of Labranzagrande, both of whom had taken refuge in Paya earlier to escape an angry mob. The Indians then returned to Pisba, where they bound and flogged the local teniente and his brother. These two were saved from hanging only by the appearance of the priest, who sallied forth dressed in his vestments and carrying the sacrament. Weary at last, the Indians retraced their steps to Morcote. Reclaiming the governor’s property from Tapia, they took it away along with some mules and a servant.

For six weeks the Indians continued to harass the priests and other whites. In his letter, Tapia reported that curas throughout the province found themselves the objects of ridicule. In Manare, Indians heaped indignities on the priest; in Ten they kept him a prisoner in his house for a week. The villagers of Morcote had remained faithful, but elsewhere Indians refused to attend religious services, and at least four died without receiving the sacraments. They routinely persecuted whites and threatened them with exile. In Pore they demanded that Juan Martín and Felipe Rueda, two brothers who served as alcabaleros, pay back from their own funds all the money they had collected. The Ruedas had fled, and one, half-crazed, was living in Chire, while the other was a fugitive elsewhere in the country. Tapia concluded:

Finally this province seems like the confusion of hell. Everyone gives orders, everyone contradicts everyone else. One sees and hears nothing but crimes, proof of which is the childishness that has led them to name women captains whom they employ to mistreat white women.11

The vicar general left no doubt that Javier de Mendoza was responsible for these acts. At each crossroad, the captain general had installed an armed patrol paid for by money pilfered from the cofradías and the royal treasury. The Indians themselves had told him that Mendoza had urged them to do as they might choose in all the towns, and assured them that if the priests fled in fright, the “New King” had written him (Mendoza) that he would provide for them.12 Governor Caicedo seconded this allegation in a letter to Socorro dated June 21. Claiming that Mendoza was using the Comunero rebellion as an excuse to cloak his personal vendetta, Caicedo asked the War Council to force the Llanero captain general to restore the servants and property that he had wrongly seized.13

Mendoza responded that the Indians were acting on their own. To back up this assertion, he produced a letter from the Indians of Támara listing their grievances against the governor, but the Council was not convinced and on July 17 ordered him to surrender the goods.14 Royal officials likewise regarded the creole as guilty. Viceroy Flores wrote to the minister of the Indies that Mendoza, aided by some corregidors, had seized the tax monies and persuaded the Indians to stop paying tribute and to attack the priests and the governor. In its July 31 report to Charles III, the Junta Superior de Tribunales stated that Mendoza had caused the uproar in the Llanos by deposing the royal officials, forcing the governor to flee, and freeing the Indians from paying tribute and from instruction in Christian dogma.15

The authorities were anxious to subdue Mendoza and restore royal control. The signing of the Capitulaciones in Zipaquirá, which brought a lull in the hostilities in the interior, was not honored in Casanare. By June 23, José Antonio Galán had again sounded the call to arms by attacking the town of Honda and later Ibague, Ambalema, Villa de la Purificación, and Tocaima. On that same day, the Superior Junta de Tribunales decided to appoint commissioners to go to Pore in order to enjoin Mendoza to cease his hostilities and to cooperate in the reestablishment of peace. The commissioners were to carry secret instructions to capture or kill Mendoza if he continued to resist. On July 14, the day that it named Juan Antonio Fernández Recamán to capture Galán, the Junta designated José Antonio Chaparro, a resident of Sogamoso, to implement its earlier order offering a reward of 500 patacones to be paid punctually for the capture of Mendoza, dead or alive.16

While it is not clear if Chaparro attempted to carry out this assignment, it is certain that the authorities had already rejected as fruitless any plan to send regular troops to Casanare because of the distance, impassable roads, and lack of manpower. They favored instead some kind of privately organized effort. When Archbishop Caballero y Góngora arrived in Socorro on July 16, accompanied by six Capuchin missionaries, he appointed José Antonio Villalonga to head such an expedition, assisted by Francisco José Becerra and Fernando Rodríguez. The prelate gave to Villalonga a letter of introduction to the priests and officials remaining in the Llanos, requesting their support.17 In addition, he carried a letter addressed to Mendoza from the Comunero leaders in Socorro—Salvador Plata, Ramón Ramírez, Antonio José Monsalve, and Francisco Rosillo— ordering him to receive Villalonga, to restore the deposed cabildos and governor, and to assist in the pacification of the province.18 According to Villalonga’s report to the king written three years later, the Marqués de San Jorge, Miguel Lozano de Peralta, a controversial figure already implicated in the Comunero cause, financed the expedition from his personal fortune and from his earnings as administrator of the encomienda of the Llanos.19

Villalonga assembled his expedition in Zipaquirá and left for Sogamoso in early August, following the route through Ubaté. At Socotá he conferred with José Caicedo, who informed him of the lamentable situation in Casanare—of the general commotion and of the seizure of royal funds and the property of the governor by Indian rebels and rioting vecinos.20 Caicedo had learned through reliable sources that Mendoza, after receiving the order from Socorro, had resolved to resist to the end. Calling the Indians together, he told them that they might return the property if they wished, but that he would not order them to do it, and that he was ready to defy the captains of Socorro should they try to enforce their request. The Indians angrily responded that they “did not want to deliver anything, that they wanted war, and they would take away from those of Socorro the desire to be writing letters.”21 Caicedo estimated that 3,000 Indians and many creoles would support Mendoza. Some of the latter would leave him as soon as they saw the army from the interior, but he had at least eleven chapetones who were reliable and to whom he had entrusted sixty guns, the only usable firearms that existed in Casanare. Caicedo assured Villalonga that Mendoza was absolutely determined to continue as the supreme legislator of the province and that royal officials who believed that he was still obeying orders from Socorro were deceiving themselves.22

Duly informed, Villalonga led his force across the cordillera at the Páramo of Pisba, taking some urban militia as auxiliaries. After a difficult journey over the long and arduous road, he reached Pore, where he notified the cabildo and those of Chire and Santiago of his arrival and called upon them to obey his orders and help in the pacification. Some rebels continued to fight, but many vecinos and clergy with their Indians joined his cause. By the end of September, Villalonga had restored order in Támara, Ten, Manare, Paya, Cravo, Pisba, Labranzagrande, and other afflicted places. The stolen funds of the haciendas of Tocaría and Cravo were restituted as well as the money taken from the royal treasury. No members of the expedition were lost, but three rebels were killed and Javier de Mendoza was among the twenty prisoners taken.23

Villalonga returned to Bogotá to report to the audiencia. His full statement, written on June 28, 1784, gave the glory of the victory to the Marqués de San Jorge for “responding to our request, broadening and reinforcing our desire that we might be granted this commission, giving us instructions and advice in order that we might succeed, and, finally, having given us the necessary pesos on his own account, to help with the expenses that faced us in this matter.”24 Villalonga’s testimony was one of many pieces of evidence that the Marqués brought forward in 1784 to exonerate himself from charges of openly and secretly aiding the Comuneros.

The written accounts of the revolt in Casanare show that there were two factions—the creole vecinos led by Javier Mendoza, and the Indians, whose armed strength peaked at about 3,000 men. While Vicar General Tapia implied that the entire province was in turmoil, a reconstruction of the settlement pattern gives a more accurate idea of the extent of the conflict. On October 14, 1778, Governor Caicedo completed the census of the Provincia de los Llanos in response to an edict issued by Viceroy Manuel de Guirior on November 10, 1776 (see Table I). The padrón shows three Spanish cities, together with the Indian and mestizo towns in each jurisdiction. Of the total population of 20,892, 7 percent, including 23 clergy and 1,535 vecinos were whites; 73 percent, or 15,189, were Indians; 19 percent, or 4,026, were mestizos, and 119, or less than 1 percent, were Black slaves.25Map 1 shows the location of these settlements as indicated by information gleaned from colonial and modern maps and from accounts by missionaries.26 The revolt began in Pore and then spread to Santiago and Chire. Nunchía, a mestizo parish founded only eleven years previously, did not join, nor did Iximena, which registered the largest white population. The insurrection moved rapidly to Morcote, Tamara, Paya, Pisba, Labranzagrande, and Cravo, all in Pore’s jurisdiction, and Ten and Manare in the district of Chire. With the exception of Santiago, these towns were all in the same area in or near the Andean foothills to the west and north of Pore. The rebellious towns accounted for 10,805 people, or about one-half the population in the province. The settlements north of Santiago, in the Llanos of San Juan, along the Meta River, and in the Llanos of Arauca were undisturbed.

In The People and the King, Professor Phelan notes that the Indian behavior in Casanare was more radical than in the interior. In Santa Fé, Tunja, Vélez, and Sogamoso, natives demanded the return of their resguardos and salt mines, but they did not repudiate Hispanic culture or reject the Church and its ministers. Phelan argues that violence in Casanare was the result of the failure of the Jesuits and their successors to Christianize the Indians.

After the expulsion of the Society of Jesus, the Dominicans, the Franciscans and the Augustinians took their place. The natives were only imperfectly Christianized by the Jesuits, and their successors were patently ineffective. The neophytes showed acute hostility to their spiritual mentors. The irate Indians attacked churches and forced the clergy to flee.27

The difficulty with this interpretation is that only one of the towns joining the revolt, Manare, was an ex-Jesuit mission, operated in 1781 by Franciscans.28 Since the early sixteenth century, Augustinians had been in charge of Ten, Támara, Morcote, Paya, Pisba, and Labranzagrande. The Junta de Propaganda Fide held in Santa Fé in 1662 confirmed their rule. In his history of the Augustinian missions in Colombia, José Pérez Gómez avers that they continued to administer these towns “until they were secularized in the second half of the eighteenth century.”29 The census of 1778 distinguished types of clergy and indicated that seculars were serving in Ten, Támara, Morcote, Paya, and Cravo and that there were regulars in Manare and Pisba. No unrest occurred in the ex-Jesuit missions of Tame, Macaguame, Betoyes, Patute, or Puerto (controlled in 1781 by Dominicans), or in Macuco, Surimena, and Casimena, the ex-Jesuit missions awarded to the Recollets.30 The brunt of the revolt, then, came from Indians living in towns subject to Hispanic rule for a century and a half, and it fell on secular rather than regular clergy.

A better explanation for the ferocity partially lies in the involvement of the rebel towns in the Tunja-based textile industry. Soon after the conquest, Tunja emerged as the principal center for textile production and distribution throughout New Granada. With a dense population of Indians suited to encomienda labor, the rapid adaptation of sheep to the highland valleys assuring a supply of wool, and accessibility to cotton grown in the lower altitudes of Casanare, Tunja's primacy was unassailable. During the rule of the Chibchas, the Laches and Tunebas, who lived in towns on the slopes of the eastern cordillera, became accustomed to paying tribute to the caciques of Tunja, Duitama, and Sogamoso with cotton, fish, and honey, all products of their land. In 1560 they became part of the very large encomienda granted to conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and later to his heir, Antonio de Berrio. This encomienda was one of the wealthiest in the Province of Tunja because it encompassed all the operations necessary to produce cotton cloth. The Indians around Tamara gathered as much as 160 cargas (40 pounds to a carga) of cotton a year, which they delivered to the Indian communities in the cordillera. In 1571, 6,825 arrobas of cotton were delivered to caciques in Chita alone. In that town the Indians paid tribute in blankets. Each clan, or parcialidad, had to deliver to the encomendero the number of blankets fixed in the tax. In addition, in obrajes established in Santiago de las Atalayas, the Indians wove textiles and blankets that they used to pay their tribute. As late as 1754, the remnants of the Quesada-Berrio encomienda continued to produce more than 1,000 pesos a year and had accumulated in the treasury of the Royal Hacienda 32,246 varas of cotton cloth worth 10,000 pesos.31

Although the obrajes had disappeared from Santiago by the mid-eighteenth century, cotton textiles continued to be the most profitable industry in the Indian towns. Father Basilio Vicente de Oviedo, who described and rank ordered all the parishes of New Granada according to size, income, climate, and general desirability in 1761, observed that cotton production was centered in Támara, Ten, Morcote, and Manare and pursued on a smaller scale in Labranzagrande, Pisba, and Paya. The Indians of these towns were docile, humble, and hard-working. They planted and harvested cotton, which they spun into thread to pay for their cofradías and fiestas. They wove cloth as fine as that from Castile. In Morcote they made white and striped blankets, handkerchiefs, banners, and many curious textiles. Specialties of Támara were blue-and-white striped bedspreads and handkerchiefs “as fine as any of those coming from Quito and much sought after by people of distinction.”32 Oviedo regarded Morcote and Támara as the most desirable districts in Casanare, from the standpoint of a prospective parish priest, and placed them in the second of his five-scale ranking of parishes, or on a par with San Gil or Zipaquirá. Economic activities in the other towns included raising corn and yucca, gathering forest products, making pottery, and, as in the case of Cravo, which joined the revolt, herding cattle. Cattle also were the main source of income in the Spanish cities of Pore and Santiago de las Atalayas.

By Oviedo's time, however, Socorro had surpassed Tunja as a producer in textiles and only in the region of the Llanos did the industry retain its old importance.33 At an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level, Socorro’s fertile valleys and warm climate supported a variety of crops, including sugarcane and cotton. Livestock also flourished. The town’s location on the camino real between Vélez to the south and Pamplona to the north made it a natural emporium of trade and commerce for a large hinterland. A high population growth rate fostered the development of economic activities. In contrast, the sharply declining Indian population around Tunja had reduced the prosperity of that once splendid city to a hollow facade.34 The unchanged organization and techniques of its textile production were no match for the newer methods adopted in Socorro. By 1750 locally made cloth, formerly called “de Tunja,” was designated “de Socorro.”

Royal officials recognized the significance of cotton in Casanare and wished to promote this activity, especially in the wake of the economic shock caused by the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. In his extensive report to Mesía de la Cerda on the condition of the viceroyalty in 1772, Francisco Antonio Moreno described the general poverty of the Llanos, where the Spanish “cities” scarcely deserved the name. The only commerce in the region was the manufacture of cloth, which formed part of a limited trade with the interior.35 Viceroy Guirior in his Relación de mando of 1776 recommended to his successor, Manuel Antonio Flores, that he should encourage the cultivation of cotton in the district of the new town of Socorro and in the Provincia de los Llanos, where the Indians “live by the cloth that they make and merit being imitated.” Guirior urged the corregidors to take measures that would increase the output of ruanas, shirts, and other textiles “since experience shows that if the vecinos cannot obtain local textiles, they will buy those of foreigners.

In his zeal to reorganize, rationalize, and increase the tax income of New Granada, Visitor General Gutiérrez de Piñeres had no ears for such advice. His Instrucción general para el más exacto y arreglado manejo de las Reales Rentas de Alcabalas y Armada de barlovento, issued October 12, 1780, extended the sales tax to many items previously exempt, including cotton and thread. This decision was as harmful to the Indians in Casanare as to the Socórranos because the raising of cotton, the spinning of thread, and the weaving of textiles sustained many households in both regions. The tax on thread was especially objectionable since the poor used it in place of money for their purchases and transactions.37 Combined with the earlier prohibition of cultivation of tobacco, this reform placed the poor in an impossible position. The widespread distress it generated is reflected in the ninth clause of the Capitulaciones, which called for the limitation of the alcabala to 2 percent on certain items and the complete exemption of cotton: “being a product that fittingly only the poor sow and gather, . . . we ask that it [the exemption] be established as a general rule.’’38

By April 1781, Gutiérrez de Piñeres realized that the posting of sales tax on cotton was a serious blunder. To mitigate popular unrest, he rescinded the tax on the sale, purchase, or exchange of cotton and cotton thread in Muzo, Vélez, Tunja, Leiva, San Gil, Socorro, and the Provincia de los Llanos because in those districts making cotton and thread was the principal industry of the poor and both were used regularly as a measure of exchange.39 With the revolt in Socorro well under way, the Comunero captains chose to ignore this decree, if news of it actually reached them.40 Likewise, it was too late to repair the damage in Casanare where the Indians, besides resenting the special taxes, were seething over José Caicedo’s routine abuse of tribute collection.

In a letter addressed to Javier de Mendoza on July 16, 1781, the people of Támara alleged that after serving as governor for five years, Caicedo owed money to the Indian weavers in Manare, Ten, Támara, Morcote, Paya, and Pisba. Specifically, abandoning the practice of previous governors, he had forced all the weavers to go to Morcote to sell their cloth rather than himself purchasing it in their native towns. Frequently they had to make several trips to Morcote before he would pay them. Even then, if the cloth was found to be slightly underweight, he would not pay for it or would pay only a fraction of its value. Finally, the governor had taken mules from them unjustly, and when their mules died of snakebites, he held the weavers responsible. For these reasons, the Támaras said, they would fight rather than return the property seized from Caicedo, which they intended to divide up among his creditors.41

Caicedo did not directly respond to these charges, but he did tell Salvador Plata that his confiscated goods included both cloth that he had collected for the Christmas tercio, or tribute, of 1780 and that which he had purchased privately. According to his calculations, it was the townspeople who owed him. He asked Plata to order them to pay him quickly and to surrender his servants, mules, and property. He promised to move all his private business out of the province once he had received this merchandise, for he had no desire to return and no trustworthy agent there to care for his interests.42

It seems likely that the duties on cotton, exacerbated by Caicedo’s sharp business methods, provoked the Indians to attack the tax collectors of various towns and to force the governor to flee to Socotá. Since they used cotton thread and cloth to pay religious fees, and since the clergy, like the governor, habitually took more than was their due, the same motive may have led them to turn on the priests in Paya, Ten, and Manare. The documents suggest that Javier de Mendoza openly encouraged them in these excesses. His attitude reflected a growing antagonism toward the clergy that was permeating the colonial society.

In the past, historians have paid scant attention to the anticlerical aspects of the Comunero Revolt, but Professor Phelan in his analysis of the Capitulaciones discovered that 12.5 percent of these demands, or six separate clauses, concerned alleged abuses by the clergy. The seventh clause, for example, accused the corregidors and parish priests of working together to exploit the Indians since a portion of the tribute tax collected by the corregidors provided the stipend for those priests administering Indian parishes. It also censured ecclesiastical notaries, whose services were necessary for baptisms, weddings, and funerals, for grossly overcharging their clients. Five other clauses developed the argument that the clergy were levying illegal and excessive fees. Taken together, they imply that there was dissatisfaction with the heavy charges that all groups had to pay in order to maintain the ecclesiastical establishment and that not only the Indians were oppressed by these exactions, but also the creoles and mestizos.43 In Casanare, to these kinds of complaints must be added a deep-seated creole hostility toward missionaries, who from the early seventeenth century (with government support) had sought to monopolize the Indians, while the vecinos had to rely on their own resources to wrest a meager living from the inhospitable llanos.

In 1588, when Captain Pedro Daza founded Santiago de las Atalayas on the Aguamena River at the foot of the cordillera, hope burned brightly that some intrepid adventurer would find El Dorado not far from its environs. The city had the advantages of a healthy climate and a relatively dense Indian population available for encomiendas. In the 1620s, as the administrative capital of the province, Santiago boasted thirty newly whitewashed houses, a cabildo, jail, and hospital, and a well-constructed adobe church with a wooden altar and fine ornaments for the celebration of Mass.44 In 1649 Governor Adriano de Vargas reported that he had founded two new cities—San José de Pore and Santa Barbara de Cravo. In that year vecinos of Santiago paid more than 1,395 pesos in tithes, produced 12,000 varas of cotton, and sent 6,000 pigs to the interior and 5,000 head of cattle to Tunja.45

Despite this promising beginning, Spanish settlement soon languished in the Llanos. In contrast to the cattle and horses (which multiplied undeterred by the clouds of noxious insects, unpalatable grasses, floods, and droughts), few Europeans ventured to a region that offered so much hardship and so little reward. The “city” of Chire, founded in 1672, was never more than a cluster of palm-thatched houses. An insufficient number of inhabitants reduced Santa Bárbara de Cravo to mission status. The creoles lived in the same manner as the Indians, raising yucca, plantains, and corn, gathering forest products, and hunting deer, tigers, and tapirs.

Besides capturing and selling Indians for slaves, an activity that continued throughout the colonial period, the most lucrative employment was to round up wild cattle.46 By the mid-eighteenth century, there were numerous hatos within the hundred-mile area along the Andes between the Pauto and Arauca rivers, many of them in the north.47 Salt for the animals was obtained in Chámeza and Medina. Mules were raised in Labranzagrande. The Indians tanned hides into fine leathers in Pore. Cofradías based on hatos were a major source of income to Pore, Santiago, Puerto de Casanare, Manare, and Cravo. Regular cattle drives followed the trail through Pore, Nunchia, and Labranzagrande to Sogamoso.48 The substantial number of mestizos reported in the 1788 census suggests that a subculture, soon to be called “llanero,” was rapidly emerging.

Since the middle of the seventeenth century missionaries had provided a barrier to creole activities. In 1662 the Junta de Propaganda Fide, summoned by President Don Diego de Egües, divided the vast territory comprising the Llanos of San Juan and Casanare among five religious orders—the Augustinians, Recollets, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits—triggering a burst of missionary activity. Solid hostility greeted the Jesuits who arrived to stay in northwestern Casanare in 1661. One encomendera, Doña Serafina de Orozco, claimed rights to all the Achaguas, reduced or not, present and future; Governor of Santiago Pedro Ordóñez y Vargas threatened to raid all the missions to take slaves; and the governor’s nephew, Esteban Sánchez Chamorro, repeatedly caused disturbances in the new reductions—to cite a few examples. Neither were the Augustinians spared. In 1687 their visitor general reported that slave hunters had nearly destroyed their missions in Casanare.49

Guahibo Indian attacks dealt a grave blow to Jesuit expansion in Guayana in 1695, but by 1715 the Company had initiated a new offensive along the Orinoco and Meta rivers. By 1767 the Jesuits ruled 10,000 Indians in seventeen reductions in Casanare, Meta, and the Orinoco, and held eight cattle haciendas with 50,000 cattle and nearly 4,000 horses.50 The largest haciendas were Caribare (established in 1661), Tocaría, and Oravo. Here the Jesuits also cultivated sugarcane, plantains, fruits, coffee, and rice. The primary function of the estates was to support the missions with food and supplies, but their surplus produce provided the basis for the regular commerce the Jesuits maintained with Santa Fé to the west and with Guayana, reached via the Meta and Orinoco rivers, to the east.

The scale of Jesuit operations dwarfed the individual efforts of creole settlers. It is small wonder that continued royal support of the Company, such as Viceroy Sebastián de Eslava's decision in the 1740s to permit its haciendas in Casanare to supply meat to Santa Fé, provoked jealousy and criticism from local colonists and officials. In 1766 Colonel Eugenio Alvarado, at the request of Charles III’s Minister Conde de Aranda, summarized these objections in a long report calling for the expulsion of the Jesuits. As second-in-command of the Royal Boundary Commission, whose mission was to determine the border between Spanish and Portuguese territory in northern South America, Alvarado visited many of the Orinoco and Meta missions between 1754 and 1760. He developed an enduring hatred for the Jesuits because he believed that they intentionally opposed the work of his commission by urging Indians to flee and by obstructing navigation of the Meta. In his Informe reservado, Alvarado accused them of despoiling the Spanish settlers of Indians granted to them in encomiendas. Once reduced, natives could not live in Spanish towns and were removed from the authority of the corregidors. Since the Jesuits used Indians on their hatos, these Indians took away jobs from the whites. Making the Indians work like slaves, the Jesuits did not pay them wages, but compensated them in kind. Alvarado charged that while the Jesuits wrote books on how to convert the savages by “peaceful persuasion,” in fact they resorted to armed entradas to take the neophytes by force. Finally, the missionaries constituted a state within a state. They were not subject to the rule of bishops. Their principal allegiance was to the Pope. The colonel urged that they be expelled from the Llanos of Casanare because “they have not been useful to God, to the King in the Reign of Santa Fé, its Llanos, and the banks of the Meta and Orinoco rivers.”51 There were no popular demonstrations on behalf of the Company when the expulsion decree arrived in July 1767. Governor Francisco Domínguez de Tejada enthusiastically rounded up the missionaries and dispatched them to Maracaibo, reporting later that despite the personal expenses he had incurred, he was “well paid and satisfied with having served the King. ”52

The creoles in Casanare profited little by the ouster of the Jesuits since the Crown simultaneously reassigned the missions to other religious orders. The haciendas, operated for a while by the Dominicans, fell in 1769 under the control of the Junta de Temporalidades for sale at auction. Inevitably the highest bidders were wealthy creoles from the interior such as the Marqués de San Jorge. The Crown continued to assign income from the profits of these estates to support the missions. It is significant that one of Mendoza’s first moves after deposing Caicedo was to seize the haciendas in the jurisdiction of Pore and to stop sales of cattle until receiving further orders from Socorro.53 While the Indians still under regular rule were geographically isolated from Pore, Mendoza could and did incite the Indians to rise against the seculars in the nearby towns. It seems likely that in the Comunero crisis, ranchers such as Mendoza and the Bohórquez brothers saw a chance not only to abolish taxes, which fell on cattle as well as cotton, but also to deal a blow against an old enemy.

In addition, Mendoza had two grievances against Governor Caicedo. First, he charged that Caicedo was a sarcillo of the regent, a local term that meant “to walk always with someone,” because he had imposed and enforced the new tax regulations. Second, the governor had arbitrarily expanded the number of aidermen in the Pore cabildo from five to ten (“in order to increase taxes and suck from the people their money”) when in such a poor district five aidermen were sufficient.54 Caicedo, who belonged to a prominent clan of creole officeholders in Bogotá, vigorously refuted both allegations. In a letter to Salvador Plata, he stated that he was only fulfilling his obligation as governor of the Province in obeying the orders of the regent:

It is public knowledge that I did not establish in said province any tax beyond those which I found established and other than the Regent imposed, and it is known that as Governor, I did not have the power to do it.55

Moreover, he continued, it was completely within his authority as governor to expand the membership in the cabildo. Keenly aware of the misery and misfortune of Pore, he had taken this step as a way to encourage individuals to improve their position by holding offices from which they could obtain personal honor and give luster to their city. Mendoza, he charged, objected not to the measure itself, but to his lack of appointment to one of the newly created posts. “Justice will show,” Caicedo concluded, “how Mendoza proceeded against me . . . using the excuse of the Común, which with justice can be defended, to avenge unjustly his passions and private resentments and how his public actions only go against the just aspirations of the Común.”56

Two hundred years later, the figure of Javier de Mendoza remains enigmatic. While Cárdenas Acosta argues that in the conduct of the revolt Mendoza did not commit any outrage or punishable act and that his behavior was adjusted to the standards of a gentleman, the royal authorities considered him guilty as charged.57 The documents show that it was he who organized the revolt, represented himself as an official of Túpac Amaru, freed the Indians from paying tribute, and exhorted them to attack the clergy and the governor. When ordered by Salvador Plata to restore Caicedo’s property, Mendoza replied that the Indians were out of control and that he could not muster sufficient force to take away from them what they did not want to give. Yet as late as September he was counting on their support to repel Villalonga’s army.58 Mendoza did not betray the Indians. He resisted until he was captured by a superior force. Still, he has not shared José Antonio Galán’s mantle as a social revolutionary or precursor of Independence. It is not clear whether his obscurity results from the ambiguity of his motives or from the limitation of his activities to an isolated province. Colombian scholars have consistently neglected the history of Casanare and other peripheral regions in their focus on the interplay between the interior heartland and the coast. It is not until the Wars of Independence that events there occupy center stage of national history for a single dramatic moment.59

In summary, then, the Comunero Revolt that began in Socorro sparked a significant insurrection in the Llanos of Casanare, where Indians and creoles seized control from Spanish authorities, harassed the clergy, and maintained political autonomy for four months. The unusual excesses perpetrated by the Indians were not due to their insufficient hispanization, but were a consequence of several factors—their involvement in the declining Tunja-based textile industry, the attempt by Gutiérrez de Piñeres to squeeze more from the tejedores, the ill-advised policies adopted by Governor Caicedo, and the complicity of the creoles led by Javier de Mendoza, who, resenting the privileged status of the clergy, did nothing to protect them and in fact encouraged the Indians to take their revenge.

Set in the context of the ongoing debate over the significance of the Comunero movement in the history of New Granada, these events seem to provide grist for every mill. The creole-Indian demands for relief from unfair taxes and local abuses of power vindicate the “reformist” historians, who argue that the revolt was primarily against specific injustices in the colonial regime. Those who view the Comuneros as precursors to Independence will take heart in the defiant behavior of Javier de Mendoza. Proponents of the aborted social revolution theory will stress that it was the elite members of the War Council in Socorro, Comuneros themselves, who cooperated with Archbishop Caballero y Góngora and José Antonio Villalonga in crushing one of the most broadly based and radical manifestations of the protest. Moreover, although this essay takes issue with Phelan’s interpretation of the Casanare developments, it has not brought forth any evidence to disprove his central thesis, based on a textual analysis of the Capitulaciones, that the movement was fundamentally a profound political and constitutional crisis in which the Socorro leaders challenged the arbitrary policies of Gutiérrez de Piñeres and demanded a return to “the unwritten constitution” by which an informal decision-making process had been worked out by creole elites and nonelites with the authorities.60

The aftermath of the revolt is another matter. If, as Phelan insists, Flores and Caballero y Góngora made significant concessions to the Comunero complaints, it is difficult to see how, beyond the reduction of certain taxes, the people of Casanare may have benefited. On October 20, 1781, Viceroy Flores issued a general pardon, lowered the price of tobacco and aguardiente, rolled back the alcabala to the traditional 2 percent in the highlands and 4 percent in the maritime provinces, and abolished the Armada de Barlovento sales tax. Remaining exempt from impost were cotton and cotton thread.61 The archbishop-viceroy reiterated these reforms in his general pardon of August 7, 1782, but neither he nor his successors initiated any new scheme for the economic development of the Llanos. Textiles and cattle enjoyed local importance, but had little potential for trade since they were products that the cities in the highlands could obtain more efficiently from other regions. The merchants of Cartagena blocked serious consideration of proposals to establish direct trade with Guayana and Spain along with the Meta and Orinoco rivers.62 The increasing dependence of Bourbon viceroys on military troops to defend Spanish rule in the Caribbean frontier provinces of Riohacha and Darién had no counterpart in the Llanos. Not even the threat of an English invasion from Trinidad via the Orinoco unveiled by the capture of Nariño in 1797 created enough concern to bring about the detachment of militia to Casanare.63 The viceroys continued to rely on the missionaries as the best way to populate, hispanize, and defend the region—a policy that reached its fullest extent when Mendinueta proposed in 1803 to augment the efforts of the regular clergy by the creation of a bishopric in the Llanos.64 By 1809 the provincial capital had been transferred from the rapidly decaying Santiago to Pore, and it is fair to say that Casanare was more isolated economically and militarily from Santa Fé de Bogota than it had been thirty years before.

The revolt of 1781 did have one unanticipated consequence for Spanish rule in the Llanos. Fearing reprisals for their involvement in the insurrection, in spite of the granting of the general pardon, many inhabitants of the interior sought refuge in the isolated missions of Casanare. Both Baron von Humboldt and José Cortés Madariaga, who visited the towns along the Meta River in 1802 and 1811 respectively, noted that especially in the ex-Jesuit mission of Macuco, there had settled large numbers of Socorranos refugiados.65 It was with these fellow Socorranos that José María Rosillo and Vicente Cadena hoped to unite in their daring attempt in 1809-10 to declare war against Spain from Casanare. When a hastily assembled force led by the alcalde of Chire captured the young revolutionaries, Viceroy Antonio Amar y Bourbon, just as Caballero y Góngora had done in 1781, completed the pacification by dispatching an expeditionary force from the interior to occupy the province.66 Nine years later the direction of the invasion would be reversed. Among the men who marched with Simón Bolívar from the Llanos of Casanare to the highlands of Boyacá were, most certainly, some forgotten Comuneros.


Phelan assesses earlier interpretations on pp. 151-155 of The People and the King (Madison, 1978) and in the accompanying footnotes. Examples of the reformist position are David Phelps Leonard, “The Comunero Rebellion of New Granada in 1781, A Chapter in the Spanish Quest for Social Justice” (Ph. D. Diss., University of Michigan, 1951); John Lynch, The Spanish American Revolutions 1808–1826 (New York, 1973); and Armando Gómez Latorre, Enfoque social de la revolución comunera (Bogotá, 1973). Of those who see the movement as a precursor to Independence, the most important are Pablo E. Cárdenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal de 1781 en el Nuevo Reino de Granada, 2 vols. (Bogotá, 1960); Manuel Briceño, Los comuneros (Bogotá, 1977); and Horacio Rodríguez Plata, Los comuneros (Bogotá, 1950). For the aborted social revolution thesis, see Indalecio Liévano Aguirre, Los grandes conflictos sociales y económicos de nuestra historia (Bogotá, 1964); Germán Arciniegas, Los comuneros (Mexico City, 1951); and Luis Torres Almeyda, La rebelión de Galán, el comunero (Bucaramanga, 1961). Professor Phelan received posthumously from the American Historical Association the Albert J. Beveridge Award, which cited The People and the King as the best book published in 1978 on the history of the United States, Canada, or Latin America.


Of the major works dealing with the Comunero Revolt, Cárdenas Acosta, Phelan, and Arciniegas give partial accounts of the conflict in Casanare. Other sources quote from Arciniegas, as in the case of Torres Almeyda, La rebelión de Galán, pp. 212-213, or dismiss this phase of the revolt with a passing reference.


Lynch, The Spanish American Revolutions, p. 231.


The complete text of the Capitulaciones is reprinted in Cárdenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal, II, 18-29 and analyzed by Phelan, The People and the King, pp. 156-186.


The principal unpublished sources are in the Archivo Histórico Nacional, Bogotá, Los Comuneros (hereinafter cited as AHN, LC), vol. 6, fols. 49-62. They consist of the correspondence between officials and rebels in Casanare and the Comunero captains in Socorro—Salvador Plata, Ramón Ramírez, Antonio José Monsalve, and Francisco Rosillo. See also Cárdenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal, I, 251-256, and Phelan, The People and the King, pp. 104-106.


Cárdenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal, I, 252.


Común of Cocuy to Captains and Lieutenants of the Towns of Támara, Ten, and Manare, Cocuy, May 23, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fol. 49.


José Tapia to Salvador Plata, Morcote, July 10, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 53-56.


José Caicedo to Salvador Plata, Antonio Monsalve, Francisco Rosillo, and Ramón Ramírez, Socotá, June 21, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 56–60. The authorship of the Cocuy letter has been the subject of considerable controversy. Phelan has postulated that Berbeo himself may have planted it in the remote village in order to intimidate royal authorities into accepting moderate creole demands. This thesis is partially substantiated by the fact that Caicedo in the letter cited above states that even before May 19, Mendoza had received several unsigned papers purporting to be orders from the Inca that he had made public. On the other hand, both Tapia, who enclosed a copy of the Cocuy document with his letter to the War Council, and Caicedo emphatically maintained that in Casanare it was common knowledge that the document had been written in Pore in the name of the Común of Cocuy as a way to trick the Indians into obeying the orders it contained. See also José Caicedo to Salvador Plata, Antonio Monsalve, Francisco Rosillo, and Ramón Ramírez, Socotá, July 28, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 60-62.


Tapia to Plata, Morcote, July 10, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 53-56.






Caicedo to Plata, Monsalve, Rosillo, and Ramírez, Socotá, June 21, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 56-60.


Salvador Plata, Ramón Ramírez, Antonio José Monsalve, Francisco Rosillo to Javier de Mendoza, Socorro, July 17, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fol. 52.


Cárdenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal, I, 254.


Ibid., II, 116-117. A patacón was a silver coin weighing one ounce.


José Antonio Villalonga to Charles III, Bogotá, June 28, 1784, in Eduardo Posada, Los comuneros (Bogotá, 1905), p. 425.


Plata, Ramírez, Monsalve, and Rosillo to Mendoza, Socorro, July 17, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fol. 52.


For sympathetic views of the stormy career of Lozano de Peralta, see Raimundo Rivas, “El Marqués de San Jorge,” Boletín de historia y antigüedades (hereinafter cited as BHA), 6 (May 1911), 721-750, and Sergio Elias Ortiz, Nuevo Reino de Granada: El virreinato, 2 vols. (Bogota, 1970), II, 271.


Posada, Los comuneros, p. 427.


José Caicedo to Salvador Plata, Antonio José Monsalve, Francisco Rosillo, and Ramón Ramírez, Socotá, July 28, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 60-62.


José Caicedo to Salvador Plata and Francisco Rosillo, Socotá, Aug. 13, 1781 AHN LC, vol. 6, fol. 62.


Posada, Los comuneros, p. 427; José Francisco Méndez to Salvador Plata, Pore Sept. 28, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 52-53.


Posada, Los comuneros, p. 428.


José Caicedo, Provincia de los Llanos: Padrón formado en el año de 1778. Morcote, Oct. 14, 1778, AHN.


Eduardo Acevedo Latorre has published a magnificent collection of maps of Nueva Granada in Atlas de mapas antiguos de Colombia siglos XIV a XIX (Bogota, 1971). In addition, there are usefull maps in Germán Colmenares, las haciendas de los jesuítas en el Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá, 1971); Antonio B. Cuervo, Colección de documentos inéditos sobre la geografía y la historia de Colombia, 4 vols. (Bogotá, 1893); and Marcelino Ganuza, Monografía de las misiones vivas de agustinos recoletos (candelarios) en Colom


Phelan, The People and the King, p. 41.


Gregorio Arcila Robledo, Las misiones franciscanas en Colombia (Bogotá, 1950), pp. 219-220.


José Pérez Gómez, Los apuntes históricos de las misiones agustinianas en Colombia (Bogotá, 1924), p. 105.


José Manuel Groot, Historia eclesiástica y civil de Nueva Granada, 2 vols. (Bogotá, 1953), II, 122-123; Ganuza, Monografía de las misiones vivas, II, 44.

bia, 2 vols. (Bogotá, 1921). Systematic mapping of New Granada dates from the work of Baron von Humboldt in 1801. Since the towns in the Llanos were frequently shifted to different sites and given new names, locating them in the eighteenth century is necessarily educated guesswork.


Germán Colmenares, La Provincia de Tunja en el Nuevo Reino de Granada: Ensayo de historia social 1539-1800 (Bogotá, 1970), pp. 16-17, 44.


Basilio Vicente de Oviedo, Cualidades y riquezas del Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá, 1930), p. 226.


Luis Ospina Vásquez, Industria y protección en Colombia 1810-1930 (Medellin 1955), p. 62.


Phelan, The People and the King, p. 173.


Francisco Antonio Moreno y Escandón, “Estado del Virreinato de Santafé, Nuevo Reino de Granada Año 1772,” BHA, 23 (Sept.-Oct. 1936), 264-265, 587-588.


E. Posada and P. M. Ibáñez, Relaciones de mando, 2 vols. (Bogotá, 1910), I, 145.


Briceño, Los comuneros, pp. 2-4.


Cárdenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal II 21


Ibid., I, 106-107.


Ortiz, Nuevo Reino de Granada, p. 239.


The People of Támara to Javier de Mendoza, Támara, July 16, 1781, AHN LC vol. 6, fol. 49.


Caicedo to Plata, Monsalve, Rosillo, and Ramírez, Socotá, June 21, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 56-60.


Phelan, The People and the King, p. 170.


Ganuza, Monografía de las misiones vivas, I, 176-177.


Juan M. Pacheco, Los Jesuítas en Colombia, 2 vols. (Bogota, 1959, 1962), II, 346.


Robert Morey, Jr., “Ecology and Culture Change among the Colombian Guahibo” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1977), pp. 24-25.


Dieter Brunnschweiler, The Llanos Frontier of Colombia (East Lansing, 1972), p. 43.


For a description of an eighteenth-century cattle drive in Casanare, see the letter of Gerónimo de Busto y Santa Cruz to Eugenio de Alvarado, Morcote, Sept. 28, 1759, in Cuervo, Colección de documentos inéditos, III, 333-335.


Pacheco, Los Jesuítas en Colombia, II, 360-367.


Eugenio de Alvarado, Informe reservado (1776) in Cuervo, Colección de documentos inéditos, III, 109-225. There are many studies of the Jesuit missions in New Granada, but the excellent volumes by Juan M. Pacheco cited above cover the topic only until 1696. For the eighteenth century, see in addition to Alvarado, J. J. Borda, Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en Nueva Granada (Paris, 1870), and Daniel Restrepo, La Compañía de Jesús en Colombia (Bogota, 1940). Las haciendas de los jesuítas en el Nuevo Reino de Granada (Bogotá, 1969) by Germán Colmenares is a recent and well-researched investigation of the organization and impact of the Jesuit haciendas.


Alvarado, Informe reservado, p. 188.


Groot, Historia eclesiástica y civil, II, 123.


The Officials of Pore to the Captains and Jefes of Socorro, Pore, June 1, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 49-50.




Caicedo to Plata, Monsalve, Rosillo, and Ramírez, Socotá, June 21, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 56-60.




Cardenas Acosta, El movimiento comunal, I, 255.


Francisco Javier de Mendoza to the Captains General, Pore, July 17, 1781, AHN, LC, vol. 6, fols. 50-51.


In 1954, when the Violencia was taking a tremendous toll in the Llanos, Guillermo Ramírez R., a Casanareño, made an emotional plea for systematic study of the history of this region, noting that all knowledge of the Llanos is today fragmentary, exaggerated, and the product of suppositions." "San Luis de Palenque, el Llanero y su Presente” in Economía colombiana, 1 (Aug. 1954), 25. Historians have yet to respond to this challenge, although the studies by Robert Morey and Dieter Brunnschweiler are first-rate efforts by an anthropologist and a geographer to fill the gap.


Phelan, The People and the King, p. 41.


Briceño, Los comuneros, pp. 115-124.


François Depons, Travels in South America, 2 vols. (London, 1807), II, 313.


In his Relación de mando of 1803 Mendinueta recommended that a militia company of 400 men be established in Casanare, but his suggestion was not acted upon. Posada and Ibáñez, Relaciones de mando, II, 570. For an excellent study of Bourbon military policy, see Allan J. Kuethe, Military Reform and Society in New Granada, 1773-1808 (Gainesville, 1978).


Posada and Ibáñez, Relaciones de mando, II, 411.


Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent during the Years 1799-1804, 7 vols. (London, 1814-29, reprinted by AMS Press, New York, 1966, in 6 vols.), IV, 547-548. José Cortés Madariaga, “Viaje de Cortés Madariaga,” BHA, 3 (Nov. 1905), 446. In September 1781 José Antonio Galán considered fleeing to the Llanos, but soon abandoned the plan. See Posada, Los comuneros, pp. 295–296.


Enrique Otero D’Costa, “La Revolución de Casanare en 1809,” BHA, 17 (Apr. 1929), 535.

Author notes


The author is Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts.