Celebrating Venezuela’s Independence Day
This past 5th of July was Venezuela’s Independence Day. The date celebrates the meeting of the first National Constituent Congress in 1811 where representatives of 7 provinces of the Captaincy General of Venezuela met and declared independence from the Spanish empire. This marks the beginning of a difficult independence war that would not end until the victories in the Battle of Carabobo in 1821 and the Lake Maracaibo battle in 1823.
The declaration, like many similar documents, is influenced by the current of thoughts of the enlightenment and was built on the idea that it didn’t make sense that a small country like Spain had control over the Americas. However, it’s also important to highlight the role that political changes in Europe had, and the impact that they would have on the nations of the new world. During the Napoleonic wars, Napoleon took control of Spain and ousted King Ferdinand VII in favor of his brother Joseph Bonaparte. This was a drastic change in the political panorama of Spain and its colonial territories. Even in Venezuela, due to the changes, the Supreme Junta of Caracas, the local authority changed its name to the Supreme Junta for the Conservation of Rights of Ferdinand VII. The lack of recognition of the new Spanish government was key to the reasoning for independence. The thought was that if Ferdinand VII wasn’t going to govern, the right to govern Venezuela was reverted to Venezuelans. The harsh conflict that followed was just the overture of a century full of democratic and institutional advancements as well as armed conflicts between warlords that are key to understanding today’s Venezuela.
Despite being an interesting story, it’s difficult to talk about Venezuelan independence when, currently, the country lives under an autocratic regime and in a complex humanitarian emergency. Sometimes, it even seems out of touch with reality to talk about the topic given present conditions. But, in these difficult comments, I think it’s more important than ever to remember our history, not just Venezuela, but of our whole continent. Not in the hopes to prevent future mistakes, but to make an exercise in perspective.
None of the countries in Latin America has had an easy history. War, dictatorships, and crises are the daily bread of the political history of our nations. Nevertheless, as Ernst Renan said, a nation is a daily plebiscite and it’s important to learn about our past to honor the decision of so many people who have chosen to work and believe in our countries. Like them, we all have a role to play in the history of our nations.