Spanish regular army officers in Venezuela were among the leading participants in the autonomist, separatist, and loyalist movements which emerged in the aftermath of Napoleon's invasion of Spain. Beginning with the creation of the Junta Conservadora de los Derechos de Fernando VII in April 1810, and later throughout the area that became modern Venezuela, regular army officers—almost to a man—followed the lead of local civilian leadership in determining whether to remain loyal to Spain. This outcome, at first glance surprising, is more readily understandable in light of an immediately preceding period of declining reputational status and increasing economic marginality among the officers, which led to widespread dissatisfaction. From the time of the outbreak of wars in Europe in the 1790s, the crown was unable to redress officer grievances. This caused officers to look to local elites in whose midst they were stationed for rewards. Since the loyalties of these regional elites after 1810 differed from place to place, the main variable concerning officer loyalty was their duty station.

During the past decade, a number of studies have been published concerning the military in late colonial Spanish America.1 Nearly all of them have focused on the army as an institution within the context of the Bourbon reforms and only marginally on the issues of status and loyalty. The major exception—not only because it specifically addresses the questions of status and loyalty, but also because it concerns all Spanish American garrisons as a single component of the royal army—is the work of Juan Marchena of the University of Seville.

In his pathbreaking study, Marchena found that there was an identifiable Army of America as a component of the Army of Spain. During the last third of the eighteenth century, the crown found it increasingly difficult to finance and man this colonial army, which forced Charles III and Charles IV to rely on American resources to defend the realm. This shift not only expanded military capabilities, but also provided criollo officers with increased opportunities to obtain economic, social, and political power. Marchena concluded that this increase in power of American-born officers allowed them membership in the criollo oligarchy, which led to the loss of the Army of America’s corporate identity as a component of the Army of Spain. Consequently, from 1810 to 1824, authorities on the peninsula had to send over 30, 000 men to the Indies to replace the soldiers of the Army of America, a majority of whom had embraced emancipation.2

According to Marchena, the erosion of corporate identity and corresponding loss of loyalty to the crown was, in part, the result of changes in the officer corps from midcentury on: a much larger percentage of American-born officers; added opportunities for career officers to enjoy upward social mobility through promotion; increased political power; and increasing wealth and economic status. His conclusions are based on his examination of over 8, 000 service records (hojas de servicios) from which he extracted information according to 27 variables.3 The most important of these regarding status was the officer’s social derivation (calidad). The highest categorization was “noble,” which in America, according to Marchena, signified a man at the apex of the social strata. He discovered that in 1750, 7 percent of the officers serving in the Indies were designated “nobles,” while from 1770 to 1810, approximately 50 percent were. Not only was there an increasingly larger percentage classified as “noble,” but by 1800, two-thirds of these were criollos.4

One of the most important variables utilized by Marchena to infer that officers lost their identity with the Army of Spain was birthplace. He found that the percentage of criollo officers serving in the Indies increased steadily from 35 percent in 1750, to 60 percent in 1800.5 And although he admitted that peninsulars dominated the higher ranks, given the nearly total dominance of American-born captains, lieutenants, and second lieutenants, “the officer corps was in the hands of the criollos at the time of independence.”6

This generalization is confirmed by historians of the regular army in individual viceroyalties and captaincies general. In Cuba at the end of the century, the percentages closely approximate those found by Marchena for the Indies as a whole: 57 percent of the regular army officers on the island were criollos, including a sizable number in command positions.7 Similarly, by the end of the colonial era, a majority of the regular officers in the garrisons of Panama, Cartagena, Quito, and Guayaquil were American born.8 After the initiation of European wars in the 1790s, a large number of Mexican sergeants were promoted to the officer corps because of the crown’s inability to provide peninsular replacements as in the past.9

An additional factor on which analysis of the social structure of the officer corps can be based is social mobility. Did the institution allow lower social orders to become officers, and once commissioned were they and other officers allowed possibilities of promotion? In some parts of the empire it was possible for castas to become officers, although they commanded men of similar background and social standing and never “whites.”10 Marchena concluded that there was virtually no opportunity for a common soldier, who was usually from the lowest “white” strata of the social ladder, to rise through the ranks to the officer corps.11 For sons of military officers, landowners, and merchants, he found the officer corps an important channel of upward social mobility.12 Allan Kuethe presents a much more guarded conclusion for officers in New Granada: the expanded regular army offered career opportunities for the younger sons of creole families who lacked other alternatives to sustain a respectable social position.”13 In regard to promotion, after receiving their commissions, very few officers were promoted above the rank of captain, although advancement to that point was fairly certain. But the possibilities for attaining high rank were much better for those born in Spain than for Americans. In Mexico, for instance, at the turn of the century only 4 of the 45 brigadiers, colonels, and lieutenant colonels were Americans.14

The important political role played by military officers in late colonial Spanish America is well known. Many, if not most, viceroys, governors, and captains general had at some time served as officers in a peninsular unit. In many capitals, the local military commanders assumed the civil and military responsibilities of the governor or captain general in case of the absence or incapacity of the incumbent. As instrumentalities of royal administration, officers were appointed to the positions of corregidor and lieutenant justice in the fringe areas of the empire.15 And for a case such as Venezuela, it is of special interest to determine the percentage of officers who held these posts, if they had any connection to the local garrison before appointment, and whether or not there were alterations in the patterns from 1750 to 1810.

Finally, did many of the officers, as Marchena asserts, belong to the economic elite,”16 which included “la flor de la sociedad americana?”17 In suggesting this high socioeconomic standing he presents a familiar paradigm. Most of the early appointments to the new permanent battalions created in the Indies after midcentury were peninsulars. Once on duty, they were able to take advantage of their legal and reputational status, political power, and access to capital in order to participate in the general prosperity of the era. Their criollo sons, many of whom also became officers, were able to cement additional ties to the criollo oligarchy because they were stationed near their family’s commercial interests and agricultural holdings. These links were further reinforced when criollos of non-military commercial and landowning families joined the regular army officer corps.18 That this was at least possible was confirmed by Doris Ladd, who found that 5 of the 81 titled nobles she identified in late colonial Mexico were peninsular regular army officers who had married wealthy criollo women.19 Although this is a very small percentage of the hundreds of officers who served, most peninsulars who came to Mexico after midcentury did develop business interests and became identified with the local community where they were stationed.20 Perhaps the strongest ties between the officer corps and the local socioeconomic elite were found by Allan Kuethe in Cuba, where officers were well connected to the local planter and commercial aristocracy.21

While the studies of the regular Spanish army in late colonial Spanish America provide data on variables that relate to social status, they only emphasize the importance of avoiding empirewide conclusions regarding the loyalty of officers in reaction to Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. In Cuba, the army and its officers remained loyal to Spain during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.22 So, too, did the garrisons in Cuzco and Lima.23 In Chile, the royal army was split after 1810: in Santiago, officers supported the criollos who seized power, while in southern Chile (Chiloé and Valdivia) they remained loyal.24 In New Spain, the regular army supported the conservative, peninsular-led coup of 1808.25 During Father Miguel Hidalgo’s revolt two years later, troops garrisoned in insurgent-occupied towns such as San Miguel, Celaya, and Guanajuato, joined the insurrection, while there was little support among army units elsewhere.26 In 1821, however, many royalist officers—including peninsulars—turned to independence.27 And in New Granada,

“despite claims by the patriotic Supreme Central Junta in Seville and its successor, the Council of the Regency, that they and the royal bureaucracy in America spoke for the deposed monarch, unit after unit of the reformed army in New Granada, . . . actively or passively supported the local juntas that sprang up in their districts.”28

The Officer Population

Before comparing the variables of birthplace, social origins and promotion, political power, and wealth and economic status to loyalty in Venezuela, it is essential to define precisely who is to be included in the population of regular army officers, particularly as there is a great deal of confusion concerning the term “army officer” as it applies to late eighteenth-century Spanish America. This commonly results from overly general references to “high-ranking military officers” as part of the elite; the custom of mistaking militia for regular army officers; and inconsistencies in the classification of sergeants and cadets.

Anyone sworn to defend the realm, whether regular army or militia, had an assigned rank from field marshal (mariscal de campo) to common soldier (soldado). According to his standing, he was part of either the officer corps or the enlisted ranks. Each of these components was further divided into two sectors: enlisted men were either noncommissioned officers (sergeants and corporals) or soldiers, while officers either had general or field rank (field marshal, brigadier, colonel, and lieutenant colonel), or were junior officers (captain, lieutenant, and second lieutenant).29

Some officers were assigned functions that may or may not have corresponded to their rank. If they were junior officers, they most likely served as second lieutenants, lieutenants, or captains in a regular army infantry or artillery company. Some, however, were assigned to staff (Plana Mayor and Estado Mayor)30 positions, which were functions, not ranks. The most common designations for officers in these posts in Venezuela were colonel, major (sargento mayor), and adjutant (ayudante). The possible duty stations and total forces under their command in each city are detailed in Table I.

The highest strictly military posts were the colonel of the Caracas Battalion and the commanders in the provinces and ports of Puerto Cabello and La Guaira. During the late 1770s and 1780s, army authorities in Spain appointed comandantes to command the regular units and the newly created, disciplined militias in each of the provincial capitals (Cumaná, Maracaibo, La Asunción, and Guayana), as well as the important cities of Puerto Cabello and La Guaira.31 In the mid-1790s, commanders were also posted to Coro and Bat inas.32 The command of the Caracas Battalion fell to the colonel who, in addition to his military responsibilities, served as the king’s lieutenant (teniente del rey). In this capacity he assumed the captain general’s civil and military functions in the latter’s absence.33

After those serving in command positions and the regular army companies, the largest group of officers assigned to permanent posts in Venezuela consisted of those supervising and instructing the disciplined militias. In Venezuela, there were two groups of militias, whites and pardos, divided according to social category and assimilation rather than along strictly racial lines. Each had a white, regular army cadre of officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to instruct them at weekly—or more often monthly—musters. These officers were almost exclusively peninsulars. They received monthly pay whether the militia was activated or not, and were subject to the same supervision by local and metropolitan command groups as those in the regular army. Most of the militia officers were not, therefore, members of the regular army officer corps. The colonels, captains, and second lieutenants were always civilians who received no salary unless mobilized. The majors, lieutenants, and staff officers in Venezuela were, however, regular career army officers.34

If one is not careful to distinguish between regular army officers and militia officers, conclusions concerning socioeconomic status can be distorted. In support of the supposition that criollos could attain high standing in Venezuela, one author wrote that “[c]reoles could rise up to the rank of colonel in the armed forces.”35 This is true concerning the militias—the colonels were all criollos—but not ever in the regular army in Venezuela. Throughout the captaincy general, however, white militia officers generally had a higher socioeconomic status than those serving in the regular army. The white militia officer corps in Caracas Province, for example, was composed of the wealthiest and most politically powerful members of society. To these elite Venezuelan families the combination of wealth, high status, and desire for a militia commission was just as natural as was the blend of poverty, low status, and avoidance of service to those at the bottom of the social scale. Regular army officers aspired to the status enjoyed by white militia officers, which the latter held independently of and prior to their military service.36

The conventional definition of an army officer as one who received monthly pay, who was historically known as an officer, and whose primary function was defense of the realm, leaves some men out of the officer population who are often referred to as army officers by historians. Army commissions assigning officers to new posts included a provision that they were not to be assessed a media anata (a payment of one-half the annual income from a revenue-producing post) because their positions were purely military. Governors and captains general, however, who were all career officers before assignment, had civil functions and therefore paid the media anata; they were not included in the Venezuelan army documents as part of the officer population.

Soldiers below the rank of second lieutenant were not considered officers. They were known as suboficiales and were not entitled to be addressed as “Don,” as were officers. Nor were cadets who were on training status and earned the salary of common soldiers.37 Many did not become officers, and were only carried on the rolls because they were attending the local military academy. Most cadets, however, did become officers, especially those who were the sons of officers.

By the army’s own records, a total of 485 regular army officers served on permanent status from 1750 to 1810 in what became modern Venezuela. By far the greatest number served in Caracas (315), followed by Cumaná (73), Guayana (53), Maracaibo (47), and on Margarita Island (21). A total of 24 officers transferred within Venezuela, but were only counted once for statistical purposes. Of the 485, peninsulars and other Europeans outnumbered criollos two to one, although there was a larger percentage of American-born officers in 1800 than in 1750. Nevertheless, as indicated in Table II, at no time were there more criollos than peninsulars and other Europeans in the regular army officer corps in Venezuela. There were, however, considerable variations from province to province. In Caracas, there were more than three times as many Europeans as Americans, and on Margarita Island twice as many. In Cumaná and Guayana, on the other hand, criollos and Europeans were about evenly represented, while in Maracaibo, twice as many criollos served. Generally, from 1750 to 1810, there were at least twice as many European as criollo officers on duty in Caracas Province at any one time, while in the peripheral provinces there were roughly equal numbers of each. In Venezuela, the regular army officer corps did not become progressively “Americanized” during the eighteenth century.38

Social Origins and Promotion

The social strata from which the crown recruited its officers, and whether these men were able to advance in their careers, have a direct bearing on the question of loyalty. Since regular officers in Venezuela had to have the legal and reputational status of “white” prior to commission, we are not, in this instance, concerned directly with the army as a vehicle for the upward mobility of pardos and blacks. Instead we must focus on the various “white” sectors.

There were four routes by which a man could receive a commission in the regular army: by serving as a cadet, by promotion from sergeant, directly from civilian life, or through exemplary militia service. Unlike the cases of New Spain and New Granada, commissions were not sold in the regular army in Venezuela.39 Of those occupying officer posts during the last half of the eighteenth century in Venezuela, more than half were commissioned after serving as cadets, approximately one-third were previously noncommissioned officers, and the remainder were split between direct commissions and former militia officers. The average age at commission was 28. 8 years, with that of former cadets 24. 9 years, and former sergeants 35. 8.40

While it is nearly impossible to determine the social origins of many of the peninsular officers who began their careers as cadets, the criollos who did so were overwhelmingly sons of army officers. The next largest group was those whose fathers were royal officials serving in Venezuela. From 1750 to 1790, 36 criollos were promoted to regular army second lieutenant positions in Caracas Province. Of these, 34 were previously cadets, one was promoted from the ranks, and the other had served as an officer in the militia. Of the 36, 24 were sons of military officers, 4 were sons of royal officials, and the origins of the other 8 could not be determined.41

With the exceptions of Pedro and Antonio Suárez de Urbina, sons of elite families did not serve in the Caracas Battalion, although some were cadets and studied in the local military academy and then were allowed to resign from the service. Among these were Juan Bernardo Aristiguieta, José Tovar, and Gerónimo and José Ignacio Uztáriz y Tovar.42 Instead, the most wealthy Caracas families sent their sons to Spain if they wished an army career. Sebastián Rodríguez del Toro, the third Marqués del Toro and reportedly the wealthiest man in the captaincy general, sent four of his sons to serve in the armed forces in Spain, three in the royal guards and one in the navy.43 Miguel Pacheco Mijares, son of the Conde de San Xavier, also served in the royal guards.44 When Pacheco returned to Venezuela in 1784, he did not serve in the regular army, instead choosing to command a militia battalion while supervising the family holdings.45 All evidence indicates that while regular army service in Venezuela was not the career choice of elite sons, some did serve in Spain.

The backgrounds of officers in the peripheral provinces were similar to those of Caracas. In both Cumaná and Maracaibo two-thirds of the criollo officers who served as cadets before receiving commissions were sons of officers. All of those stationed in the frontier garrison in Guayana and one-half of those on Margarita Island were also sons of officers. None of the American-born cadets were sons of sergeants when they entered the army, although a few were sons of officers who rose through the ranks.46

Captain Pedro Márquez de Valenzuela served in both Cumaná and Maracaibo and was representative of criollo cadets of nonmilitary families who became officers in Venezuela. His father, Licenciado Pedro Márquez, served as an alcalde and fiel ejecutor, and when Cadet Márquez entered the army in 1758, his father owned 3 slaves, some small buildings, and a five-acre banana hacienda in the Tarabacoa Valley. In comparison, his father’s cousin, Antonio Márquez, also served as an alcalde but had 10 slaves, a larger house, a 2,000-tree cacao hacienda near the coast, a three-acre sugar hacienda, and a sugar mill. He was considerably wealthier than Cadet Márquez’s father, and none of his sons became army officers. The wealthiest man in Cumaná Province was Diego Antonio de Alcalá, who had 16 slaves, a very large house, and a 12,000-tree cacao hacienda in Cariaco Valley, with a net worth of over 100,000 pesos. As was the case in Caracas, the sons of families such as that of Alcalá did not serve in the local regular army, but unlike those in the capital, there was no evidence they enlisted for service in Spain.47

The second route by which regular army commissions were filled– approximately one-third of all officers in Venezuela–was by promotion of sergeants. With very few exceptions, only peninsulars rose through the ranks to the officer corps. The military backgrounds of 443 of the 485 officers who served in Venezuela from 1750 to 1810 could be extracted from official documents. Of these, only 27 were criollos who rose from the ranks, approximately 6 percent. Over five times as many peninsulars (132) were promoted to the officer corps from sergeant.48

Approximately 6 percent of the officers who served in Venezuela from 1750 to 1810 were recipients of direct commissions for exemplary action during wartime. The best-known officer in this category was Juan de Casas, who as commander of the Caracas Battalion was acting captain general from 1807 to 1809. Born in Valencia del Cid, he found himself in New Spain during the Seven Years’ War and outfitted a militia company at his own expense when Spain declared war on England in 1762. Ten years later, he was named a lieutenant in the Caracas Battalion, and he rose to the colonelcy of the same unit in 1804. Word of his retirement arrived from Spain in February 1810, two months before the calling of the Cabildo Abierto in Caracas which began the movement toward independence.49

Colonel Casas was an exception to the overwhelming majority of regular army officers in that he had high status and wealth before his arrival in Venezuela; rose through the officer corps to the colonelcy of the Caracas Battalion; married into the elite of Venezuelan society (to a daughter of Pedro Blanco de Ponte); and was a member of the military order of Santiago. His salary as colonel of the battalion was 2,616 pesos annually, nearly as much as an oidor of the audiencia. He was the quintessential “high-ranking military officer,” and, as such, had little in common with the majority of his brother officers.50 There is little evidence to support the proposition that in Venezuela service in the regular army officer corps represented an opportunity for upward social mobility for the majority of criollos who served. Instead, it appears that those who became army officers did so to maintain the socioeconomic status of their fathers, who for the most part were themselves army officers.

Once having received a commission, an officer’s professional advancement was measured by promotion to more responsible positions. To be advanced there had to be a vacancy, which occurred in Venezuela by the creation of new posts–such as the instructorships of the militias–or by the death, transfer, or retirement of the incumbent. The officers who died, transferred, or retired from active duty in the captaincy general between 1750 and 1810 spent an average of 20 of their 32-year careers in Venezuela.51 Very few transferred out of the area once stationed in Venezuela, so promotions were nearly always due to the death or retirement of the incumbent. Since officers lived relatively long lives (those in Venezuela an average 53.3 years)52 and were reluctant to retire because by doing so their pay would he reduced by one-half, bottlenecks were prevalent even among the junior officer positions.53

Promotion problems were greatly exacerbated because there were few positions above the rank of captain to which the officers could be promoted, seven in Caracas Province and six in the peripheral areas.54 The only opportunity for advancement in Caracas Province was to the majorities of the Caracas Battalion or of the “white” or “pardo” militias in Caracas, the Aragua Valleys, and Valencia. There was also the possibility of internal promotion to the commander posts in Cumanó, Guayana, Margarita Island, and Maracaibo. Commanders were assisted by a major in Cumaná and a castellano in Maracaibo, both of which positions were filled by the promotion of captains in these provincial capitals. The high-ranking command positions (colonel of the Caracas Battalion; commanders in Puerto Cabello, La Guaira, Coro, and Nueva Barcelona; the engineer directors; and artillery commanders) were almost exclusively filled by transfers from peninsular regiments.55

The paucity of field-grade positions was only one of the factors stiffing the professional advancement of officers. In addition, royal policy favored the promotion of officers in Spanish-based units over those on duty in Venezuela. This discrimination was not by design essentially anticriollo—although that in part was the effect—but rather aimed to promote men from peninsular units.56 Spaniards who found themselves on duty in Venezuela also saw their opportunities for promotion thwarted by the influx of officers from Spanish-based regiments who were promoted over those garrisoned in the captaincy general.

The posting of officers from outside units persisted until the eve of the struggles for independence despite repeated protests from officers in the colony. As early as 1770 complaints had caused the crown to order that criollos should be afforded the same opportunities for promotion as peninsulars.57 Yet in the next decade, all the lieutenants and second lieutenants of the Caracas Battalion signed a protest to the crown in which they complained about the lack of internal promotions. In response, the metropolitan authorities again ordered that officers in Caracas should not be discriminated against by promoting outsiders.58 Two decades later, however, in 1805, the commander of the battalion, Colonel Juan de Casas, wrote that “those officers who began their careers here have continually suffered prejudice because of promotions of outsiders of all ranks.”59 Major Matías Letamendi repeated the same complaint 3 years later when he asked for compliance with the order that had been issued 20 years before.60

Regular army officers assigned to supervise and instruct the militia units suffered even more than those in regular army companies. After the first group of cadets and sergeants was promoted to serve in these reformed forces in 1771, local officials had trouble finding any officers to volunteer for such positions. Officers knew that it was difficult to return to regular companies, and there was virtually no chance of promotion once posted to the militia units.61 In 1786, First Adjutant Miguel Martínez, a career officer who arrived in Venezuela from Spain in 1767 as a second lieutenant, complained that he had served in the same post for 15 years without the possibility of promotion.62 Twenty years later, First Adjutant Ramón García de Sena wrote that officers who began their careers when he did, but avoided the militia, had risen further and faster.63

Because of the posting of men from peninsular units and the dearth of field-grade positions, over 80 percent of all officers who ended their careers in Venezuela from 1750 to 1810 did so at the rank of captain or below.64 The inability of an officer to obtain field rank caused frustration and disenchantment with his career choice. In 1802, Captain Jaime Moreno, the son and grandson of brigadiers, pleaded for promotion. He had served for 37 years, was 50 years old, and had not been promoted for 15 years. He ended his petition by asking if he “must bury” himself “at the lowly rank of eaptain, as there is no hope of promotion without the intervention of the crown.”65

Assignment to Venezuela meant the waning of previously notable careers, even to officers whose fathers were field marshals and generals in Spain. In 1751, Lieutenant Manuel Aponte arrived with Governor Felipe Ricardos to help contain the Juan Francisco de León rebellion, and chose to remain with the new Caracas Battalion at its inception two years later. His father was governor and captain general of Cartagena de Indias, and his grandfather died a general of artillery. Until his posting to Venezuela, young Aponte’s promotion record was excellent: he began service as a cadet at the age of 9, was promoted directly to lieutenant at 15, and in 1753 was awarded a captaincy in the Caracas Battalion at the age of 27. Then the promotions stopped. Captain Aponte died at the age of 49; he was still a captain, having served in the same post for 22 years.66

Perhaps there is no better example of how detrimental service in Venezuela was to an officer’s career than that of Mateo Gual, father of the conspirator and regular army captain Manuel Gual. The elder Gual arrived in Venezuela in 1740 with the Victoria Regiment. Promotions up to that point in his career had been expeditious: he was a second lieutenant at age 13, a lieutenant at 18, and a captain at 25. These promotions were no doubt due in part to the fact that his father was a high-ranking army officer on the peninsula, who eventually attained the rank of lieutenant general. In 1744, Mateo married Josefa Inés Curbelo of Caracas, and therefore decided to remain in Venezuela when his unit rotated back to Spain in 1750. The crown rewarded him with a lieutenant colonelcy in 1747 at the age of 32, in part because of wartime service against the British in 1743. He repeatedly asked the crown for promotion, each time noting that officers who entered the service when he did were by then generals in Spain, while he floundered in Venezuela as a lieutenant colonel. Although he served interim appointments as commander in Puerto Cabello (1776-77) and as governor of Cumaná on two occasions (1753-57 and 1765–67), be remained a lieutenant colonel for nearly 30 years until his death in 1777.67 His son, Manuel Gual, retired from the army with the rank of captain in 1796 in part because his repeated pleas for promotion went unanswered. The next year he was implicated in a plot to overthrow the government. One of the reasons given by Gual for his rebellion was the lack of opportunities for promotion in the army.68 The experiences of the Gual family paralleled those of many others in Venezuela. Often an officer who served his entire career in Spain could at least hope to reach the rank of colonel, while his son in Venezuelan service would never rise above lieutenant colonel, and his criollo grandson would end his career as a captain.69

The Sucre family of Cumaná provides the most striking example– perhaps especially in its long-term consequences–of the inability of criollo sons and grandsons of regular army officers outside of Caracas Province to attain high rank. The founder of the Sucre clan in Venezuela was Carlos Francisco de Sucre, who was governor and captain general of Cumaná in the 1730s. His son Antonio served in the army in Cumaná and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Antonio had five sons, two of whom, Vicente and Francisco, served in the regular army in Cumaná. Vicente retired a lieutenant after 24 years in the army, and Francisco died a captain after 28 years of service. Between them, Vicente and Francisco had ten sons who fought in the wars of independence against the Spanish, nearly all of whom were either killed in action or executed. The best known of the sons is, of course, Antonio José Sucre, the Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, a son of Lieutenant Vicente Sucre, himself a political leader in the movement to separate from Spain.70

Political Power

Whether stationed in a provincial capital, a frontier garrison, or the seat of the captaincy general, few regular army officers were part of the political elite in colonial Venezuela. According to T. B. Bottomore, who sought to distinguish between general high status and the minority who actually rule any given society, the political elite “comprises those individuals who actually exercise power in a society at any given time.”71 An application of this definition to late colonial Venezuela would focus on two groups of political positions: those which had authority at the captaincy general or provincial level, and those having only local power. The former were the captains general, governors of the provinces, and audiencia members. All of the governors and captains general had at some time served in a peninsular military unit before assuming their positions, but in Venezuela exercised essentially civilian functions and had little involvement in day-to-day military affairs. Nor did officers serving on active duty ill the captaincy general serve in the audiencia.

The political elite could also include those serving in positions with local jurisdiction: cabildo members, commanders of the ports of La Guaira and Puerto Cabello, and the lieutenant justices, who were appointed by the governors to dispense justice in rural areas where there were no cabildos. Regular army officers on active duty were forbidden by law from bolding appointments to the cabildos, leaving the positions of port commander and lieutenant justice as the only politically powerful posts to which they could be appointed.72

Only 11 of the 485 officers who served in Venezuela from 1750 to 1810 held the positions of commander in Puerto Cabello and in La Guaira.73 And even for these few men, there was a major difference in the earnings of those officers who served before the initiation of fiscal reforms under the intendancy system established in 1776 and those who followed. Prior to that year, commanders in La Guaira and Puerto Cabello more than doubled their 2,000 pesos annual salaries by collecting special fees.74 By his own admission, Colonel Joaquín Moreno de Mendoza, the commander in La Guaira from 1772 to 1786, annually earned 2,500 pesos from anchorage fees, and 741 pesos from licensing 57 retail stores at 13 pesos apiece. Lieutenant Colonel Esteban Aymerich, a commander in Puerto Cabello in the 1780s, reported that his predecessor had supplemented his salary with 1,000 pesos in anchorage fees, 1,400 pesos from retail store licenses, and 600 pesos from his ownership of the cantina in the Castillo de San Felipe. These fees were collected legally by Moreno and Aymerich until the establishment of the intendancy when they were placed with general revenues. To compensate them for their losses in income, the crown raised their salaries to 3,000 pesos annually, which was still 2,000 less than they had earned before the reforms.75

The tightening of fiscal administration also worked to cut the perquisites of army officers—usually captains—serving as lieutenant justices. Although forbidden from doing so by a royal order dated September 23, 1727,76 26 regular army officers of the Caracas Battalion served as lieutenant justices from 1753 to 1776.77 Through such appointments, an officer could earn considerable supplemental income.78 For instance, the lieutenant justice in Nueva Barcelona earned 300 pesos annually from the sale of tavern licenses alone.79 A royal order of October 22, 1776 forbade regular army officers from holding administrative posts while on active duty and therefore earning two salaries.80 What made this different from earlier bans was the provision that officers could only collect one salary, which appears to have been enforced in light of the fiscal administrative reform. Thus, while there were a few exceptions after the introduction of the intendancy, the number of regular army officers on active duty serving as administrators and collecting supplemental income fell dramatically. For example, Captain General Juan Guillelmi, who served in Caracas from 1786 to 1792, did not appoint any officers of the Caracas Battalion to the lieutenant justice positions.81

Wealth and Economic Status

Although it appears that regular army officers were not predominantly peninsulars or criollos, came from rather modest backgrounds, and had little political power, there still remains the question of wealth and economic status. As indicated in Table III, field-grade officers earned at least 1,000 pesos annually and others from 360 to 1,000. The highest salaries went to the commanders in La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, and Caracas, where salaries nearly equalled those of the oidores of the audiencia. The vast majority of the officers in Venezuela earned between 336 and 720 pesos annually, and were therefore broadly representative of the middle sectors. Lieutenants, for example, earned 480 pesos annually, putting them at the same level as teachers and lower level bureaucrats. By comparison, sergeants were paid at a rate comparable to skilled workers, and common soldiers like laborers.

Officers could also obtain added income from illegal activities. Many were involved in contraband trade during the entire eighteenth century. In 1750, Captain Carlos Sucre protested the clandestine business dealings of Brigadier Diego Tabares, the governor of Cumaná. According to Sucre, the brigadier and his wife dealt in French, Dutch, and Danish goods, and were hurting legitimate commerce.82 Lieutenant Joaquin Baquerizo of the Caracas Battalion received a two-year suspension from the army for falsifying ship records and receiving goods in Coro in 1776.83 Lieutenant Miguel Mas openly ferried goods between Cumaná and Trinidad Island in the 1790s.84

A few officers received supplemental income by controlling the purchase and distribution of uniforms, which during peacetime could be replaced as often as every two years.85 In 1778, they cost 23,885 pesos for the 689 soldiers of the Caracas Battalion, an expenditure of over 34 pesos per soldier.86 If all the approximately 1,500 soldiers of the regular army in the captaincy general received new uniforms, it would have meant the transfer of over 50,000 pesos. In addition, many of the thousands of militiamen received uniforms, though by no means all. Abuse was possible because officers were responsible for obtaining uniforms for their men. A portion of each enlisted man’s salary was deducted and kept in the officer’s care until uniforms were purchased. An officer, therefore, could sell the uniforms to his men for more than the purchase price or could utilize the capital deducted from the salaries until the uniforms were purchased. Although army authorities knew of these schemes and which officers were involved, they did little to stop them.87 One exception was Major José de Esquivel who was convicted of embezzling 3,000 pesos from the funds discounted from the enlisted men and left in his care. The army command in Madrid ordered him out of the service.88

As military obligations took little time during peacetime, ambitious officers could maintain small haciendas and thereby supplement their salaries. According to Captain General Guillelmi, regular army officers in Venezuela assigned to command and instruct the militias in the 1780s spent only one or two hours per week on military duties.89 In 1761, Governor Felipe Ramírez reported that Lieutenant Colonel Manuel de Agreda received 80 to 90 pesos per month from a small cacao hacienda and homes he rented in Puerto Cabello, which more than doubled his income.90 In the same year, Captain Juan Valdés of Guayana owned a sugar plantation worked by 19 slaves, and a large herd of livestock.91 Another example was Antonio Alcover, a regular army officer assigned to instruct the militia in Valeneia, who owned a tobacco plantation.92 Captain Manuel Matos, who in 1808 was involved in a conspiracy to end Spanish rule, was a large coffee grower.93

Regardless of small outside interests, the vast majority of regular army officers were not wealthy. The example of Lieutenant Luis de Urrutia was typical. He was born in Murcia, became a cadet at the age of 18, received his commission four years later, and was a lieutenant when he died in 1781 at the age of 47. In 1773, he married María Juliana Blanco y Plaza, one of 11 children of Mateo Blanco Ponte and Petronila de la Plaza who belonged to the lesser gentry of cacao growers. During their seven years of marriage, Urrutia’s wife gave birth to five children, one of whom died in infancy. His total lifetime earnings were 10,565 pesos, and when he died he left no property on which his family could subsist, although he had lived in Caracas Province for nearly 30 years. Consequently, his widow and four children were forced to live on a small pension from the chureh.94

Nor did high rank assure an officer of wealth. In 1802, Brigadier Esteban Aymerich died after 52 years of service, half of them in Venezuela. He arrived in the captaincy general in 1775 while a captain of engineers, later served as commander in Puerto Cabello (1781-87) and La Guaira (1787-95), and ended his career in Spain after a short tour of duty on Trinidad. The value of his property at his time of death was 2,920 pesos and 3 reales. It consisted of eight slaves, some jewels, and a few pieces of furniture. His creditors were Martín de Iriarte, whom he owed 1,365 pesos in back rent; his brother-in-law, who had loaned him 1,400 pesos for his wife to live on while he was in Spain; and his daughter, whom the estate owed 200 pesos for the sale of one of her slaves. Brigadier Aymerich, therefore, after 52 years of service, including 15 as the highest paid officer in the captaincy general, bequeathed his heirs a debt of 45 pesos.95

Perhaps the only exceptions to the general rule that the overwhelming majority of officers could not greatly improve their economic position were those stationed along the eastern frontier in Guayana. Here opportunities for the acquisition of some wealth were similar to those offered Spaniards who took part in the conquest of fringe areas of the empire during the sixteenth century. Officers assigned to the first permanent army contingent in Guayana in the middle of the eighteenth century could increase their property during their tours of duty. Lieutenant Félix Farreras arrived in Venezuela in 1738 to participate in the conquest of the Upper Orinoco River in conjunction with missionary activities. In 1754, he was commissioned a second lieutenant to serve in the presidio at Antigua Guayana, and he was garrisoned from 1764 to his death in 1776 at the new fort in Angostura. In 1761, he owned 11 slaves, a small house, a few livestock, and a small farm where he grew sugar cane, maize, and plantains. Eight years later, his property had grown to 24 slaves, 250 head of cattle, 14 horses, and 2 acres of land.96

While some officers had outside income, the majority did not, and therefore had to stretch their salaries farther and farther because of rising prices brought on by the disruption of trade during the wars from 1793 onward. In May 1800, all the officers of the regular army in Cumaná petitioned the metropolitan authorities for an increase in salary. They complained that prices of essential commodities had risen 300 percent, while their income remained unchanged since the 1770s. Consequently, they were forced to live at the level of enlisted men and were unable to maintain themselves in the style desired by the crown. The officers concluded by asserting that even though goods were less expensive and more plentiful in Caracas, officers received higher salaries in the capital.97

In fact, however, officers in Caracas were no better off than those in Cumaná. In June 1800, one month after the letter from the officers in Cumaná, the commander of the Caracas Battalion, Colonel Juan Manuel de Cajigal, wrote the Madrid command asking that the captains under his command receive a raise. He argued that these officers were at the end of their careers and were not, as elsewhere in the Indies, able to fall back on the incomes of large estates. They were sons of Europeans without the ability to maintain themselves or their families at a level equal to a “poor noble.”98

Points raised in these two letters are helpful in providing a summary of the officers’ wealth and economic status at the end of the colonial era. Both indicate increasing economic marginality, which in this case means the pushing of members of the officer corps toward lower class whites (“blancos de orilla”) such as artisans, shopkeepers, and enlisted men.99 In addition to losing status in the “white” social strata, regular army officers more and more shared some of the same aspirations and inequalities common to other members of the “overflowing middle” sectors, which included many pardos.100 But since they were “poor nobles,” and not just “poor,” officers at least believed they could look to the sovereign for redress. Whether the king could respond positively depended, in part, on the prosperity of the kingdom; by the time of their letters, war was ruining the Spanish economy.101

Loyalty during the First Republic

During the first decade of the nineteenth century, regular army officers in Venezuela remained loyal to the crown while local political leaders debated their reaction to events on the peninsula. None of the officers supported Francisco de Miranda’s landing in 1806. Two years later, when news arrived of Napoleon’s invasion and his brother’s accession to the throne of Spain, officers reacted calmly to the actions of the Caracas Cabildo whose members declared their loyalty to Ferdinand VII.102 This did not indicate indifference, but that squabbles between pro-French, pro-Ferdinand, and proautonomy factions did not directly address their grievances, especially regarding pay and promotion. They could not expect redress through the actions of their commander, Colonel Juan de Casas, who as interim captain general tried to steer through the political quagmire. Nor were the officers reassured by the arrival in 1809 of the new captain general, Vicente Emparán, who was aloof from military concerns.103

The inaction of the officers turned to support for the pro-Ferdinand faction beginning on April 19, 1810, when members of the Caracas Cabildo called themselves into open session and forced Captain Cenerai Emparán to resign. Their purpose was to reclaim control of foreign trade, to maintain white racial supremacy in the face of real or imaginary threats from slaves and pardos, and to ensure survival of the plantation system. With token representation from the clergy, the people, the pardos, and the army, they reconstituted themselves as the Junta Conservadora de los Derechos de Fernando VII. By doing so they remained nominally subject to the abdicated king, but since he was imprisoned in France they were able to begin the transition to independence which they declared the following year. One of the Junta’s first acts was to address the complaints of the regular army officers by ordering salary increases and promotions for nearly all the officers in Caracas, Puerto Cabello, and La Guaira. Although done in strict accordance with royal regulations, these acts marked the end of the crown’s role as the automatic patron of the regular army officers stationed in Caracas Province.104

A thorough search of military correspondence and records, which were very sporadic after 1803, allows the identification of 59 regular army officers who were on active duty in Caracas Province immediately preceding the events of April 1810. From these records, complemented by primary and secondary sources concerning the wars of independence, the roles of 51 of the officers after 1810 can be determined. Due to the bias of the documentation toward those active in the independence struggle, it is possible that the 8 for whom records cannot be found remained nominally loyalist, or at least did not openly support the actions against Spain.105 Perhaps they were among the thousands who died in Caracas as a result of the earthquake of March 26, 1812—which, among other things, destroyed the military barracks.106 Nevertheless, for the 51 whose actions are known, it is possible to discern common characteristics.

The roles of these regular army officers in the early movement for independence, from April 1810 to Mirandas capitulation at the end of the First Republic in July 1812, can be analyzed according to rank and birthplace.107 Generally, officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel and above remained loyal to Spain, while majors and below became patriots. Regarding birthplace, there was no significant difference between Americans and peninsulars on the issue of loyalty. There were 6 brigadiers, colonels, and lieutenant colonels identified, all peninsulars; 4 were loyalists, 1 a patriot, and the other retired. There were 4 majors: the peninsular remained a royalist and the 3 criollos became patriots. Of the 9 captains, there were 7 criollo patriots and 1 peninsular patriot, and 1 criollo retired. Finally, there were 32 lieutenants and second lieutenants, 19 criollos and 13 peninsulars; only 3 remained loyal to Spain, although Lieutenants Antonio Guzmán and José Marti later turned against the patriots and are considered traitors in Venezuela. Of the 3 who remained loyal to Spain from 1810, 1 was serving in Valencia where local leaders fought the domination of Caracas, 1 was an artillery officer in La Gualra whose reasons for remaining loyal could not be determined, and the other was a criollo with long family ties to Maracaibo, whose political leaders rejected the domination of the caraqueña junta.108

The relationship between officers’ birthplaces and loyalty was especially significant in Maracaibo in that the officer corps (like the enlisted ranks) always had a higher percentage of criollos than elsewhere in the captaincy general, and in 1810 was over 95 percent American born. Nevertheless, the companies in Maracaibo remained loyal to Spain for over a decade. This loyalty stemmed from four causes. First, there were fears that any change in the status quo would lead to a rebellion by blacks and pardos such as those which had occurred in nearby Coro in 1795 and in Maracaibo itself in 1799. Second, Maracaibo elites feared domination by Caracas. Third, they thought they would be protected by royal reinforcements from Havana and Puerto Rico. And, fourth, the man appointed to the post of captain general to direct operations against the caraqueños, Fernando Miyares, was an excellent officer who had long years of service in Maracaibo and strong business and kinship ties to the local oligarchy.

Regular army officers elsewhere in the captaincy general also initially followed the leadership of the cabildos which were called to confirm or deny the authority of the Caracas Junta. Support for the caraqueños was especially strong in Cumaná, where only 2 of the 14 officers on active duty—Colonel Miguel Correa y Guevara and Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Costa—opposed the Cumaná Cabildo and remained loyal to Spain.109 Correa y Guevara had little in common with his brother officers as he was the nephew of former Captain General Manuel Guevara, in 1810 served as the acting governor of Nueva Andalucía, and in 1816 would become the royalist commander in Coro.110 The other loyalist, Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Costa, was 72 years old in 1810 and had been ill for some time.111 The 12 who became patriots all held the rank of captain or below, and included 8 criollos and 4 peninsulars.112

Generalizations concerning the loyalties of officers on Margarita Island are difficult to make because there were only six or seven of them on duty in 1810. Nevertheless, it appears that two—Lieutenant Colonel Joaquin de Fuelles and Captain Francisco Mármol—were staunch royalists from 1810 onward. Lieutenant Pasquel Martínez at first supported the pro-Caracas faction, but later allied himself with the royalists after Miranda’s capitulation. Lieutenant José Manuel Marcano fled to Cumaná and joined patriot forces there.113

The regular army officers in Guayana were presented with a situation unique to members of the officer corps in the captaincy general. On May 11, 1810, the delegates of the cabildo abierto in Ciudad Guayana elected to align themselves with the Caracas Junta. Immediately, however, strong opposition directed by Capuchins and Spanish commercial interests in Angostura gained control of the local government and arrested the leadership of the pro-Caracas faction. Guayana, therefore, remained a royalist stronghold in the east, just as Maracaibo had in the west. There were 14 regular army officers on duty in Guayana in May 1810, 8 peninsulars, and 6 criollos. Led by criollo Captains Matías Farreras and José de Chastre, officers at first supported the pro-Caracas leadership. But when the pro-Spanish contingent gained power, they switched sides.114 By mid-1812 here and elsewhere in Venezuela, the dynamics of the war determined the loyalties of the former regular Spanish army officers, and whatever identity they had with the crown quickly eroded. From then on, the leadership in the provinces shifted from regional corporate elites to regional charismatic leaders, and decisions as to loyalties were made by officers individually rather than as members of the royal army officer corps.

How can the loyalty of officers in Guayana and Maracaibo and the disloyalty of those in Cumaná and Caracas be explained? This contrast does not appear to be related to the percentage of American-born officers on duty in 1810. The garrisons in Caracas Province (Puerto Cabello, La Guaira, and Caracas), which had the highest percentage of peninsulars, were the first to abandon the crown. The officers in the royalist stronghold in Maracaibo were nearly all American born. There were roughly even numbers of criollos and peninsulars in Guayana, and the garrison remained loyal. American-born officers predominated in Cumaná, and there the corps as a whole—including the peninsulars—followed the lead of the insurgents in Caracas. In fact, one of the most celebrated patriot military leaders in Cumaná in the early fighting for independence was Captain Manuel Villapol, a peninsular who had risen through the ranks.115

Social origins and promotion are more reliable variables than birthplace in the determination of loyalty after 1810. Nearly all of the criollo officers began their careers as cadets and were sons of army officers. Their commissions confirmed their middle-sector socioeconomic status. Peninsular officers had often risen from the ranks and therefore experienced some upward mobility from their social origins in Spain. But once they arrived in Venezuela they joined the American-born officers who were floundering in junior officer positions. The high ranks were reserved for peninsulars who had begun their careers as cadets. These men had not experienced the lack of promotion and dissatisfaction common to the great majority of the officers. In fact, only one of the ten officers on duty in 1810 ranked lieutenant colonel or above proved disloyal. The exception, Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Jacot, had been in Venezuela for 25 years by 1810; was married to a sister of the conspirator, coflee grower, and retired regular army officer Manuel Matos; and was related to Francisco González de Linares, a wealthy Caracas merchant who was married to Jacot's sister.116 So, although he had relatively high social standing on the peninsula and had been rewarded with high rank, his long service in Venezuela tied him directly to the sector of the population most affected by the economic disruptions brought on by the wars in Europe.

According to royalist Brigadier Juan Manuel de Cajigal, who served in Venezuela before and after 1810, the major reason for officer disloyalty was the decline in their socioeconomic status, which by the end of the colonial era was equal to other members of the middle sectors. This was especially bitter to officers, because people of similar economic status were not called on to endure the rigors of military campaigns.117 The only way they could be restored to their rightful place was through the intervention of the king, and from 1793 onward, he was unable to do so. By the end of the colonial period, regular army officers in Venezuela were in search of a new patron.

That does not explain, however, why some officers remained loyal and others chose to sever their ties to the metropolis. Officers in Maracaibo and Guayana had the same social origins, wealth, and lack of opportunity for professional advancement as those in Cumaná and Caracas. We could expect all of them to rebel, but that was not the case. Instead, officers generally decided the best way to reverse the marginality that had hurled them into the “overflowing middle" was to follow local political leadership for instructions and rewards, just as they had previously obeyed the crown. In the end, these new immediate superiors took different paths in reaction to events in Spain, and regular army officers marched in behind.


Basic studies on Spanish American colonial armies include Jorge de Allendesalazar Arrau, “Ejército y milicias del Reino de Chile (1737-1815),” Boletín de la Academia Chilena de la Historia, 66 (First Semester 1962), 102-178; Christon I. Archer, The Army in Bourbon Mexico, 1760-1810 (Albuquerque, 1977), “The Army of New Spain and the Wars of Independence, 1790-1821,” HAHR, 61: 4 (Nov. 1981), 705-714, and “The Royalist Army in New Spain: Civil-Military Relationships, 1810-1821,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 13: 1 (May 1981), 57-82; Juan Beverina, El virreinato de las provinces del Río de la Plata su organizatión militar (Buenos Aires, 1935); Leon G. Campbell, The Military and Society in Colonial Peru, 1750-1810 (Philadelphia, 1978); Alfredo R. Campos, “La organización defensiva de las fronteras coloniales de lo que había de ser, en el tiempo, el Estado Oriental del Uruguay, Revista del Instituto Histórico y Geográfico del Uruguay, 24 (1958/59), 3-98; María Lourdes Díaz-Trechuelo, “La defensa de Filipinas en el último cuarto del siglo XVIII,” Anuario de Estudios Americanos, 21 (1964), 145-209; Alfonso García Gallo, “El servicio militar en Indias,” Anuario del Derecho Español, 26 (1965), 447-515; Allan J. Kuethe, The Development of the Cuban Military as a Sociopolitical Elite, 1763-83,” HAHR, 61: 4 (Nov. 1981), 695-704, “Los Llorones Cubanos: The Socio-Military Basis of Commercial Privilege in the American Trade under Charles IV,” in The North American Role in the Spanish Imperial Economy, 1760-1819, Jacques Barbier and Allan J. Kuethe, eds. (Manchester, 1984), pp. 142-156. and Military Reform and Society in New Granada, 1773-1808 (Gainesville, 1978); José M. Mariluz Urquijo, “La organización militar del virreinato en la época del marqués de Aviles,” Trabajos y Comunicaciones, 3 (1953), 117-151; Lyle N. McAlister, The “Fuero Militar” in New Spain, 1764-1800 (Gainesville, 1957); Juan Marchena Fernández, “El ejército de América: El componente humano,” Revista de Historia Militar, 163-164 (1981), 121-154; Gary M. Miller, “Status and Loyalty in Colonial Spanish America: A Social History of Regular Army Officers in Venezuela, 1750-1810” (Ph. D. diss., University of Florida, 1985); Santiago Gerardo Suárez, comp., Las fuerzas armadas venezolanas en la colonia (Caracas, 1979) and Las instituciones militares venezolanas del período hispánico en los archivos (Caracas, 1969); and Duncan S. Young, “The Eighteenth-Century Background for the Chilean Army’s Royalist Posture during the Patria Vieja (1810-1814)” (Ph. D. diss., Louisiana State University, 1976).


Marchena, “El ejército de América,” 137-138.


Ibid., 138.


Ibid., 148-152.


Ibid., 147.


Ibid., 146.


Knethe, “Los Llorones Cubanos,” 151-152.


Idem., Military Reform, pp. 180-183, 206-209.


Archer, Army in Bourbon Mexico, pp. 198-199.


See service record of Francisco José Rondón, La Guaira, July 7, 1958, Archivo General de Indias, Audiencia de Caracas (hereafter AGI CAR), leg. 865; and service record of Francisco José Rondón, Cumaná, 1786, Hojas militares, 3 vols. (Caracas, 1930-50), III, 151-152.


Marchena, “El ejército de América,” 153.


Ibid., 150.


Kuethe, Military Reform, p. 6.


Archer, Army in Bourbon Mexico, pp. 195-197.


James Lockhart and Stuart B. Schwartz, Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil (Cambridge, 1983), p. 361; and Marchena, “El ejército de América,” 126-129.


Marchena, “El ejército de América,” 128.


Ibid., 149.


Ibid., 137, 148-150.


Doris M. Ladd, The Mexican Nobility at Independence (Austin, 1976), p. 14.


Archer, Army in Bourbon Mexico, p. 199.


Kuethe, “Los Llorones Cubanos,” 151-153.


Jorge I. Domínguez, Insurrection or Loyalty: The Breakdown of the Spanish American Empire (Cambridge, MA, 1980), p. 166.


Timothy E. Anna, The Fall of the Royal Government in Peru (Lincoln, 1979), pp. 44-45.


Domínguez, Insurrection or Loyalty, pp. 153-154.


Ibid., pp. 149-150.


Ibid., pp. 155, 173; and Archer, “The Army of New Spain,” 705-706.


Archer, “The Royalist Army in New Spain,” 82.


Kuethe, Military Reform, p. 184.


See Marchena, “El ejército de América,” 123-127. Comparable ranks in the Corps of Engineers are director (brigadier), jefe (colonel), segundo (lieutenant colonel), ordinario (captain), extraordinario (lieutenant), and ayudante or delineador (second lieutenant). See “Lista de los Individuos que componen el Real Cuerpo de Ingenieros en el año 1799,” Madrid, 1800, Archivo General de Simancas, Guerra Moderna (hereafter AGS GM), leg. 5837.


The Plana Mayor was the stall of officers and enlisted men of a battalion who were not assigned to a company, such as the colonel, major, adjutants, standard bearers, surgeon, chaplain, and drummers. The Estado Mayor was the staff of officers responsible for reporting battalion activities to higher levels of command in Spain. In Venezuela, the same officers served in both command groups.


“Patentes” of Manuel Agreda, El Pardo, Feb. 22, 1772, AGI CAR, leg. 479; José Liñares, Madrid, Jan. 12, 1775, AGI CAR, leg. 844; Joaquín Moreno de Mendoza, El Pardo, Mar. 18, 1776, AGI CAR, leg. 843; Pedro Gonzales Moreno, Madrid, July 3, 1779, AGI CAR, leg. 844; and Salvador Muñoz, El Palacio, Mar. 31, 1784, AGI CAR, leg. 845.


Royal order, Aranjuez, June 21, 1794, AGI CAR, leg. 843; and service record of Miguel Ungaro y Dusmet, Caracas, Dec. 1799, AGS GM, leg. 7295.


“Título de Francisco de Arce,” San Ildefonso, Sept. 2, 1778, AGI CAR, leg. 843.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 62-65.


Domínguez, Insurrection or Loyalty, p. 111.


See the service records of the white militia officers in Caracas, Valencia, and the Valles de Aragua, 1787-1800, AGS GM, legs. 7293-7295; and especially “Compañía de Nobles Aventureros Acavallo de la Ciudad de Santiago de León de Caracas; Formada de sus hijos Nobles que passa revista,” Caracas, July 25, 1768, AGI CAR, leg. 850.


Reglamento de la fundación y establecimiento del Monte de Piedad (Madrid, 1761), p. 49 says: “En esta regla se han de comprehender también los Individuos de nuestra Real Compañía de Guardias de Corps, y los Cadetes, y Sargentos de toda Tropa, que passaren á Oficiales en sus propios Cuerpos, ó á otros” (emphasis mine).


For a list of each of the 485 officers by province of initial assignment and years they were on duty in Venezuela, see “Officers Serving in Venezuela, 1750-1810; with Years on Active Duty in the Captaincy General, both before and alter Receiving Their Commission,” in Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 230-244.


Archer, Army in Bourbon Mexico, pp. 194-199; and Kuethe, Military Reform, p. 171.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” p. 247.


For sons of army officers see: service records of Antonio Ayala, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Juan Pablo Ayala, Caracas, Dec. 1799, Hojas militares, I, 113-114; Manuel Ayala (hijo), Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Juan Carrión, Caracas, Dec. 1783, AGI CAR, leg. 87; Nicolás Castro (hijo), Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Agustín Concha. Caracas, Dec. 1799, Hojas militares, I, 294–295; José Lucas Concha, Caracas, Dec. 1783, AGI CAR, leg. 87; Francisco Dalmaces, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Manuel Dalmaces, ibid; José Ignacio Gual, Caracas, Dec. 1777, Hojas militares. II, 36-37; Manuel Gual, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Agustín Pedrosa, Caracas, Jan. 1767, AGI CAR, leg. 866; Blas Landaeta, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI GAR, leg. 851; Pedro Manrique (hijo), Caracas, Dec. 1799, AGI CAR, leg. 857; Ignacio Matos, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Manuel Matos, ibid.; José Miyares, ibid.; Diego Monteverde, Caracas, Dec. 1777, AGI CAR, leg. 869; Manuel Moreno de Mendoza, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Bernardo Muro, Caracas, Dec. 1799, Hojas militares, II, 381; Miguel Negrete, Caracas, Dec. 1805, Hojas militares, II, 393-394; José Piñeda, Caracas, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 851; Manuel Ponce, La Guaira, Dec. 1782, AGI CAR, leg. 872; Pedro Rosa, Caracas, Dec. 1780, leg. 850; and Gerónimo Tello, Caracas, Dec. 1785, Hojas militares, III, 329-330. Sons of royal officials were Pedro Suarez de Urbina, Caracas, Dec. 1806, Hojas militares, III, 320–321; Juan de Lira, Caracas, Dee. 1774, AGI CAR, leg. 843; Juan de la Romana, Caracas, Jan. 1767, AGI CAR, leg. 866; José María and Juan Manuel Salas, Caracas, Dec. 1780, AGI CAR, leg. 850. Of unknown origins were José Rodríguez, Caracas, Dec. 1780, AGI CAR, leg. 850; Luis de Vargas, Caracas, Dec. 1783, AGI CAR, leg. 478; Andrés Maso, Caracas, Dec. 1763, AGI CAR, leg. 843; and Juan Antonio Peláez, Caracas, July 1758, AGI CAR, leg. 866.


Nombramiento of Juan Bernardo Aristiguieta, El Pardo, May 31, 1783, AGI CAR, leg. 871; Felipe Ramirez to Julián de Arriaga, Caracas, Oct. 8, 1760, AGI CAR, leg. 865; and service record of José Tovar, Caracas, Dec. 1782, AGI CAR, leg. 872.


Vicente Davila, Diccionario biográfico de ilustres proceres de la independencia suramericana, 2 vols. (Caracas, 1924-26), II, 188–190.


Miguel Pacheco to Arriaga, Barcelona, May 24, 1760, AGI CAR, leg. 865; and memorial of Miguel Pacheco, Barcelona, Mar. 18, 1778, AGI CAR, leg. 872.


Pacheco to José de Gálvez, Barcelona, Oct. 6, 1784, AGI CAR, leg. 872.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty," pp. 238-244.


Service record of Pedro José de Márquez de Valenzuela, Cumaná, Dec. 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 880; "Primera Pieza de Autos de la Visita General de la Gobernación de Cumaná . . . en este año de 1761, por el Coronel Don Josephy Diguija Villagómez su Gobernador y Capitán General, que comprehende la de todas las Ciudades, Villas y Poblaciones de Españoles de su Jurisdicción, . . .,” Cumaná, 1761, AGI CAR, leg. 201, folios 600-601, and 604-607; Carlos Iturriza Guillén, Algunas familias de Cumaná (Caracas, 1973), pp. 345–350; and José Antonio de Sangroniz y Castro, Familias coloniales de Venezuela (Caracas, 1943). p. 26.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 2,30-247.


Service record of Juan de Casas, Caracas, 1774, AGI CAR, leg. 850; service record of Juan de Casas, Caracas. 1805, AGI CAR, leg. 893; and memorial of Juan de Casas, Caracas, Mar. 26, 1808, AGI CAR, leg. 107.


Ibid.; Guillermo Lohmann Villena, Los americanos en los órdenes nobiliarios, 1529-1900, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1957). I, 92; and Gazeta de Caracas, Feb. 9, 1810.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 248-250.




For example, sec memorial of José Ignacio Gual, Caracas, Mar. 12, 1785, AGI CAR, leg. 88.


“Reglamento para el Batallón fixo, de Caracas, Piquete de Cavallería, y Demas Tropas de la Dotación que debe guarnezer la Provincia de Venezuela, en los Castillos, Fuertes y demas Destinos de su Jurisdicción," Caracas, July 1, 1753, AGI CAR, leg. 883; and “Relación de las clases, y número de plazas de que se componen un Regimiento de Infantería, y Reglamento del haber mensual, que deberán gozar los oficiales, . . . en la Governación de Caracas,” Madrid, July 6, 1768, AGI CAR, leg, 847.


Miller, “Status and Loyally,” pp. 85-93.


Memorial of Sebastián Herrera, in José Solano to Arriaga, Canacas, June 16, 1770, AGI CAR, leg. 867; and General Alejandro O'Reilly to Arriaga, Madrid, Apr. 17, 1771, AGI CAR. leg. 867.


Jaime Eyzaguirre, “Promise and Prejudice in Spanish America,” in The Origins of the Latin American Revolutions, 1808-1826, R. A. Humphreys and John Lynch, eds. (New York, 1966), pp. 257-258. This petition provides a contrast to the earlier petition of peninsulars who were protesting criollo dominance in the newly formed militias. Again we are presented with an example of the importance of making the distinction between officers in the militia and those of the regular army when discussing social structure. In 1770, the peninsulars wanted greater representation in the criollo-dominated militias, while in 1776, the criollos wanted greater representation in the peninsular-dominated regular army. See Richard Konetzke, ed., Colección de documentos para la historia de la formación social de Hispanoamérica, 1493-1810, 3 vols, in 5 (Madrid, 1953–62), III, 369-375 and 413–419.


Memorial of Blas Landaeta, Antonio Moreno, Pedro de la Rosa, Juan Manuel de Salas, Antonio Ayala, Manuel Ayala, Nicolás Castro, Manuel Moreno de Mendoza, Pedro Manrique, Francisco Mellid, and Rafael Mauleón, Caracas, July 1, 1789, AGI CAR, leg. 113; and Juan Guillelmi to Antonio Valdés, Caracas, Oct. 18, 1789, ibid.


Juan de Casas to crown, Caracas, May 31, 1805, AGI CAR, leg. 105.


Matías Letamendi to crown, Caracas, Apr. 12, 1808, AGI CAR, leg. 107.


Luis de Unzaga to Gálvez, Caracas, June 14 and Dec. 24, 1778, AGI CAR, leg.84.


Memorial of Miguel Martínez, Valencia, May 31, 1786, AGI CAR, leg. 89.


Memorial of Ramón García de Sena, Pueblo de la Victoria, Jan. 4, 1805, AGI CAR, leg. 414.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” p. 249.


Memorial of Jaime Moreno, Maracaibo, Apr. 1, 1801, AGI CAR, leg. 99; and memorial of Jaime Moreno, La Victoria, Jan. 27, 1802, AGI CAR, leg. 100.


Solano to Arriaga, Caracas, Aug. 9, 1764, AGI CAR, leg. 866; service record of Manuel Aponte, Caracas, 1774, AGI CAR, leg. 850; and “Relación de los oficiales militares que . . . han fallecido desde 1761 (hasta) 1793,” Caracas, Feb. 20, 1794, AGI CAR, leg. 484.


Mateo Gual to Arriaga, La Guaira, Jan. 11, 1772, AGI CAR, leg. 867; service record of Mateo Gual, Caracas, Aug. 12, 1776, AGI CAR, leg. 868; and “Relación de los oficiales militares . . ." Caracas, Feb. 20, 1794, AGI CAR, leg. 484.


Memorial of Manuel Gual, Caracas, Oct. 31, 1789, AGI CAR, leg. 116; memorial of Manuel Gual, La Guaira, Oct. 5, 1793, AGI CAR, leg. 94; and Casto Fulgencio López, Juan Bautista Picornell y la conspiración de Gual y España (Caracas, 1955), pp. 122-123.


Another example is Joachín de Piñeda, who ended his career as a captain after 41 years of service. He was the son of Lieutenant Colonel Miguel de Pineda, and the nephew of Colonel Juan de Piñeda, who served as governor of Sonora from 1763 to 1770. Memorial of José de Piñeda, Caracas, Dec. 1, 1775, AGI CAR, leg. 83; service record of Joachín Pineda, Caracas, Dec. 1780, AGI CAR, leg. 843; and “Relación de los oficiales militares. . . .,” Caracas, Feb. 20, 1794, AGI CAR, leg. 484.


“Instancia de Don Antonio Sucre Estrelles y Pardo, pidiendo incorporación en el Monte Pío Militar y Govierno de la Martinica, Trinidad o otro de América,” Cumaná, Jan. 4, 1769, AGI CAR, leg. 127; service records of Antonio Sucre, Francisco Sucre, and Vicente Sucre, Cumaná, 1783, AGI CAR, leg. 850; memorial of Josepha García de Urbaneja, Cumaná, Sept. 16, 1801, AGI CAR, leg. 89; Guillén, Algunas familias de Cumaná, pp. 539-544 and 713-759; and Alejandro Mario Capriles, Coronas de Castilla en Venezuela (Madrid, 1967), pp. 473-477.


T. B. Bottomore, Elites and Society (London, 1966), p. 14.


Francisco Machado to Gálvez, Madrid, Dec. 29, 1777. AGI CAB, leg. 880; José de Ábalos to Gálvez, Caracas, Feb. 18. 1783, AGI CAB, leg. 476; and Guillelmi to Valdés. Caracas, Mar. 13, 1790, AGI CAR, leg. 116.


Miller, "Status and Loyalty,” p. 91.


Manuel González and Francisco de Saavedra to Galvez, Caracas, Oct. 25, 1783, AGI CAR. leg. 86.


Memorial of José and Francisco de Vargas. Valencia. Sept. 1, 1770, AGI CAR, leg. 867; and González to Glávez, Caracas, Feb. 8, 1785, AGI CAR, leg. 874.


Nombramiento de Diego José Robles, Aranjuez, May 17, 1740, AGI CAR, leg. 844.


José Carlos de Agüero to Gálvez, Caracas, Oct. 10, 1776, AGI CAR, leg. 868.


José Sucre Reyes, La capitanía general de Venezuela (Barcelona, 1969), p. 139.


Machado to Gálvez, Madrid, Dec. 29, 1777, AGI CAR, leg. 880.


Guillelmi to Valdés, Caracas, Mar. 13, 1790, AGI CAR, leg. 116.




Memorial of Carlos Sucre, Cumaná, July 8, 1750, AGI CAR, leg. 874.


Unzaga to Galvez., Caracas, May 14, 1779, AGI CAR, leg. 85.


Manuel Guevara to Manuel de Godoy, Caracas, Oct. 1, 1805, AGI CAR, leg. 848.


Nota del vestuario del [Caracas Battalion],” Caracas, Oct. 31, 1781, AGI CAR, leg. 850.


Gonzalez to Gálvez, Caracas, July 30, 1785, AGI CAR, leg. 873.


Gullelmi to Valdés, Caracas, Oct. 18, 1789, AGI CAR, leg. 113.


Memorial to Josefa Moreno et al., Valencia, May 15, 1791, AGI CAR, leg. 93.


Guillelmi to Valdés, Caracas, Mar. 30, 1790, AGI CAR, leg. 116.


Felipe Ramírez, to Arriaga, Caracas, May 18, 1761, AGI CAR, leg. 865.


“Frimera Pieza de Autos de la Visita . . . , Cumaná, 1761, AGI CAR, leg. 201.


Informe of Francisco de Saavedra, Caracas, Apr. 15, 1785, AGI CAR, leg. 87.


Mercedes Alvarez F., Temas para la historia del comercio colonial (Caracas, 1966), pp. 62-68.


Service record of Luis de Urrutia, Caracas, 1774, AGI CAR, leg. 850; Manuel González, to Gálvez, Caracas, Oct. 20, 1784, AGI CAR, leg. 87; Guillelmi to Valdés, Caracas, Apr. 30, 1789, AGI CAR, leg. 113; and Robert James Ferry, “Ciacao and Kindred; Transformations of Economy and Society in Colonial Caracas” (Ph. D). diss., University of Minnesota, 1980), pp. 214-216.


Service record of Esteban Aymerich, Madrid, 1774, AGS GM, leg. 5837; and interrogatorio of María del Rosario Varas y Varnola, La Guaira, Dec. 2, 1802, AGI CAR, leg. 103.


Mateo Gual to Arriaga, Cumaná, Apr. 30, 1755, AGI CAR, leg. 125; service record of Félix Farreras, Guayana, Nov. 1771, AGI CAR, leg. 138; “Primera Pieza de Autos de la Visita .. . ." Cumaná, 1761, AGI CAR, leg. 201; and "Padrón del vezindario de la Ciudad de Gualana,” Guayana, Jan. 29, 1769, AGI CAR, leg. 136.


Memorial of Juan Antonio Heredia, Sebastián de Espinosa, Francisco de Sucre, Martin Coronado, Juan de Flores, Pedro Sánchez, Pedro Flores, and Domingo Urbaneja, Cumaná, May ?, 1800, AGI CAR, leg. 96.


Informe of Juan Manuel de Cajigal, Caracas, June 19, 1800, AGI CAR, leg. 96.


See the discussion in Federico Brito Figueroa, La estructura económica de Venezuela colonial (Caracas, 1963), pp. 139-140.


Lockhart and Schwartz, Early Latin America, pp. 422-423.


Jacques A. Barbier and Herbert S. Klein, “Revolutionary Wars and Public Finances; The Madrid Treasury, 1784-1807,” The Journal of Economic History, 41:2 (June 1981), 328-330.


John V. Lombardi, Venezuela: The Search for Order, The Dream of Progress (New York, 1982), pp. 123-126.


Juan Manuel de Cajigal, Memorias del Mariscal de Campo Don Manuel de Cajigal sobre la revolución de Venezuela (Caracas, 1960), pp. 29-30.


Gazeta de Caracas, May 18, 1810.


Cajigal, Memorias, p. 95.


Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent, during the Years 1799-1804, 8 vols. (London, 1818), IV, 12-14.


These are the 51 officers for whom roles in the wars of independence are known in Caracas Province. They are listed by rank and each name is followed by two notations. The first is a “P” for a peninsular or a “C” for a criollo. The second indicates their role after 1810, either “H” for royalist, "PAT” for patriot, or “RET” for retired. Brigadiers and Colonels: Juan de Casas, P, RET; Agustín García. P, R; José Vásquez, y Téllez, P, R; Lieutenant Colonels: Francisco Jacot, P, PAT; Lorenzo Ros, P, R; Emeterio Ureña, P, R; Majors: Nicolás de Castro, C, PAT; Manuel Moreno de Mendoza, C, PAT; Julián Izquierdo, P, R; Fernando de Toro, C, PAT; Captains: Juan Pablo Ayala, C, PAT; Pedro Manrique, C, PAT; Ignacio Matos, C, PAT; Bernardo Muros. C. RET; José Piñeda, C, PAT; José Gabriel Liendo, C, PAT; Juan Pires y Correa, P, PAT; Gerónimo Ricaurte, C, PAT; and Antonio Suárez, de Urbina, C, PAT; Lieutenants and First Adjutants: Ramón Ayala, C, PAT; Mauricio Ayala, C. PAT; Juan Escalona, C, PAT; Antonio Guzmán, P, PAT to 1812, then R; Diego Jalón, P, PAT; Juan Manrique, C, PAT; Miguel Marmión, C, PAT; José Martí, P, PAT to 1812, then H; Miguel Negrete, C, PAT; Pedro Antonio Pellín, P, PAT; Juan Antonio Puyol (Pujol), P, RET; José Rodríguez, P, PAT; Juan de la Romana, C, PAT; Luis Santinelli, C, PAT; José Miguel Valdés, G, PAT; Juan José Valdés, C. PAT; and Melchor Sommariba y Arce, P, R; Second Lieutenants and Adjutants: Francisco de Paula Albuquerque, C, R; Manuel Aldao, C, PAT; Pedro Aldao, G, PAT; Francisco Carabaño (hijo), C, PAT; José Vicente Conde, P, RET; Antonio García, P, PAT; Pedro García, P. PAT; José Laso, P, PAT; José Miguelarena, P, PAT; José Montuel, P, R; Miguel Piñeda, C, PAT; José Lorenzo de la Romana, C, PAT; José Sata y Busi, C, PAT; José Antonio Urriera, C, PAT; and Santiago Valdés, C, PAT. For sources see Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 230-244 and 254-256.


Service record of Francisco Paula de Albuquerque, Caracas, 1805, Hojas militares, I, 23-24; and pay records of Monteverde’s Expeditionary Force, Coro, Sept. 13 to Nov 8 1813. AGI CAR, leg. 889.


Patriots included Martin Coronado, Juan José de las Flores, Francisco González Moreno (reportedly later a traitor), Vicente González, Carlos Guinet (Winet), Nicolás Pinero, Manuel Ruiz, José Salcedo Villasenor, Pedro Sánchez Gordon, Diego de Vallenilla, and Manuel Villapol. Guinet, Piñero, Salcedo, and Villapol were peninsulars and the other criollos. Miller, Status and Loyalty, pp. 230-244; and Francisco Javier Yanes, Historia de la Provincia de Cumaná en la transformación politica de Venezuela desde el día 27 de abril de 1810 hasta el presente año de 1821 (Caracas, 1949), pp. 34-61.


Memorial of Miguel Correa y Guevara, Caracas, Mar. 24, 1807, AGI CAR, leg. 106; and Hojas militares, I, 311.


Service record of Francisco Costa, Cumaná, 1799, Hojas militares, I, 312-313; and Yanes, Historia, p. 19.


Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 230-244; and Yanes, Historia, pp. 34–61.


Caracciolo Parra-Pérez, Historia de la Primera República de Venezuela, 2 vols. (Caracas, 1959), II, 356, 361, 488, 496, 505, and 507; and Salvador de Madariaga, Bolívar (New York, 1969), pp. 216, 257-258, 274.


“Testimonio de los Acuerdos de la Junta Superior, erigida en esta Capital en Nombre del Rey N.S. Don Fernando 7°, desde su creación en 11 Mayo de 1810 después de haber caducado las autoridades de la ciudad de Caracas; El que se remite á S. M. en su supremo consejo de Regencia,” Guayana, July 14, 1810, AGI CAR, leg. 139; Yanes, Historia, pp. 23-34; Miller, “Status and Loyalty,” pp. 240-242. The officers were José Dionisio Sanchez, Francisco Orozco (hijo), Isidro de la Ossa, Matías Farreras, Juan Pons, José María Ramírez, José de Chastre, Pedro Tomás Bonbon, José María Sánchez, Andrés de la Rúa y Figueroa, José Minano Aloy, José de la Olazarra, and Faustino de la Presa.


Service record of Manuel Villapol. Cumaná, 1799. Hojas militares. III, 426-427. Parra-Pérez, Primera República, II. 78; and Dávila. Diccionario biográfico, II 390-291


Memorial of Francisco Jacot, Caracas, Aug. 25, 1809, AGI CAR, leg. 484; and Parra-Pérez, Primera República, II, 289.


Cajigal, Memorias, p. 95.