“Our Faithful and Brave Protectors”: The Patía Royalists and the Incorporation of Free Blacks into Spanish Militias in Southwestern New Granada

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:50 AM
Superior Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Marcela Echeverri, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Rejecting one of the aspects of the late eighteenth century Bourbon military reform, Popayán creole elites were not open to arming colored people in the region out of fear. But the conflicts leading up to New Granada’s independence wars in 1810 merited an alliance of royal officials with powerful local black leaders in the town of San Miguel del Patía and, as a result, a militia was established along inclusive racial lines. San Miguel del Patía had a history as a refuge for fugitive slaves (palenque) that had formed in El Castigo in the decade of 1730, taking advantage of the frontier area around the Patía river valley north of Pasto and east of Barbacoas. This paper analyzes why and how the Governor of Popayán, Miguel Tacón, chose to ally with leading men in Patía in his search to defend the region from insurgents. A study of that alliance shows the flexibility of the patianos’ strategies to safeguard their territory and guarantee their permanence as a free community. It also suggests that the emergence of a military organization in this region was intricately related to the social organization and political goals of free blacks.