How Argentina Forgot Its Black Hero Antonio Ruiz Who Laid Down His Life For The Country

How Argentina Forgot Its Black Hero Antonio Ruiz Who Laid Down His Life For The Country

He is regarded as one of the Black heroes of colonial Latin America who wanted independence and reform despite the hardship of being Black in a place where there were White people. Afro-Argentinean soldier Antonio Ruiz, often known as Falucho, sacrificed his life while serving his nation. He fought with José de San Martn’s army during Argentina’s Independence War against Spain and rose to national hero status.

He was born a slave somewhere in Africa, says historians (or others might argue folklore). On February 6, 1824, during a rebellion in the fort of El Callao, Peru, he was a member of the Regiment of the River Plate and perished while defending the colors of the revolutionary flag—which would eventually become the Argentine flag—against traitors. Sources say that despite instructions to raise the Spanish flag, Ruiz decided to be shot by the traitors while exclaiming, “Viva Buenos Aires!” (Long live Buenos Aires!).

In May 1857, politician and historian Bartolomé Miter first documented Ruiz’s story. Falucho, a black soldier, perished on February 7, 1824, during the revolt in Callao, Peru, “when non-commissioned officers and soldiers mutinied due to late payment of wages, which led to the recovery of the site by the Spanish army,” according to his account.

In these conditions, Falucho gave himself up for the dignity of the “Argentine pavilion,” shattering his gun and yelling “Long live Buenos Aires!” in front of the traitors before being shot, according to Miter (Mitre, 1906, pp. 34–36).

Ruiz reportedly said, “Being a revolutionary is not horrible, I prefer to be a revolutionary rather than a traitor,” to the troops who urged him to hoist the Spanish flag.

And giving him further pain by slamming his rifle into the flagstick while holding it by the barrel. Falucho was instantly taken into custody by the betrayal’s executors, who then opened fire with four shots on his chest and head. Falucho yelled Viva Buenos Aires! before he died on the ground, according to Miter.

By the final decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the Argentine people had made Ruiz one of their most revered military figures. In Buenos Aires, a statue honoring him was built in 1897. At his feet, the Argentines observed a number of holidays, and his statue brought a large number of visitors from abroad to Buenos Aires. In the Chicago Defender, editor Robert Abbott described the statue as follows in 1923:

“The black martyr of Argentina. An imposing statue (…) commemorates the heroic acts of the famous black man, Filucho [sic] (…). It is the only memorial of its kind in the western world erected to one of our Breed by a national government. Every year between 50,000 and 75,000 schoolchildren gather at the foot of the monument with representatives of church and state to pay homage to this great martyr…”

Even though Ruiz’s bravery throughout the second half of the 20th century made headlines in Buenos Aires and elsewhere, people soon forgot about him. His name and story are not well known in Argentina today. His identification has also come under scrutiny by several historians. However, some academics have argued that it is intriguing that there is a Black hero in a nation that frequently views itself and its citizens as “White-Europeans.”

According to historical accounts, Africans arrived in Argentina’s Rio de la Plata region to work on plantations and as domestic workers. Between the 18th and 19th century, they then expanded to other regions of the nation. There are a few explanations as to why the number of Africans in Argentina has decreased through time. The Paraguayan War of 1865 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance, which included Uruguay, the Empire of Brazil, and Argentina, is said to have claimed the lives of the majority of Africans. It is alleged that the majority of Africans enlisted in the horrific war, which resulted in their widespread deaths.

The alternative theory contends that Domingo Sarmiento, Argentina’s seventh president, committed a widespread genocide against Africans there. According to reports, Sarmiento implemented oppressive measures between 1868 and 1874 that led to the deaths of numerous black people, gauchos (people of Spanish heritage), and native Argentinians. Some of these practices included making black people serve in the military, relocating them to underdeveloped areas devoid of proper healthcare facilities, and conducting mass killings.

The Argentine government left black people out of the 1895 national census because they were mainly forgotten and disregarded. Another argument contends that the 1853 Constitution of Argentina made greater efforts to whiten the nation by attracting white immigrants from Europe. The emigration of black people to Uruguay and Brazil, where they felt more welcomed, only made this situation worse.


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