Many great kings, queens, royals, and others have been exiled for opposing colonization and western oppression. There are also stories about enslaved African heroes who risked their lives in order to rebel against white oppressors during slavery. They dared the system by organizing slave rebellions in order to demand racial justice and liberation.
One of these enslaved African heroes in colonial Latin America was Marcos Xiorro, who ventured to organize an uprising against plantation owners and the Spanish Colonial Authority in Puerto Rico in 1821. The governor of Puerto Rico had ordered that any enslaved person who disobeyed their master be punished with 50 lashes by civil officials before being returned to their owners for further punishment at the time he organized the insurrection. Slaves who attempted to start a rebellion faced 100 lashes.
The details of Xiorro’s childhood are unknown. What is known is that he was a Bozal slave taken from Africa to the Spanish province of Puerto Rico. Vicente Andino, a Militia Captain who owned a sugar plantation, was his owner.
Following the triumph of the Haitian revolution in 1804, the French fled to the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico, where they established and made the island one of the major sugar exporters. Not long after, Puerto Rican slave owners began to suspect that the Haitians were planning an attack on all of the Spanish possessions. As a result, slave owners began to punish even minor crimes with brutality. This compelled Xiorro to plot an insurrection that would begin on July 27, 1821, during Santiago’s festival celebrations (St. James).
According to Xiorro’s plan, numerous slaves would abandon their estates and travel to the sugarcane fields to gather the weapons buried for the revolt. The slaves of Bayamón and Tao Baja would then be led by Xiorro and his fellow slaves Mario and Narciso to take the city of Bayamón. The objective is to burn down the city and kill anybody who is not black. They would then band together with slaves from the adjacent communities of Rio Piedras, Guaynabo, and Palo Seco. Then Xiorro would be crowned king.
Unfortunately, Ambrosio, a devoted slave and sell-out, betrayed the plans to his owner, Miguel Figueres. Slaves who notified their owners of the planned revolts were rewarded with freedom and 500 pesos at the time. Figueres, Ambrosio’s owner, told the mayor of Bayamón about the planned revolt, and 500 soldiers were deployed.
In August, Xiorro and his colleagues were apprehended, tried, and killed. According to other sources, Xiorro was tried separately after being apprehended on August 14 in the city of Mayaguez, and his fate is unknown. Despite the failure of his uprising, he became a legend among the island’s slave population and is now part of Puerto Rican folklore.
Slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico on March 22, 1873, but with one condition: slaves had to buy their own freedom at a price established by their masters. To get the funds to purchase their freedom, most liberated slaves had to continue working for their former owners for a period of time under a type of indentured servitude.