Biography of José Antonio Galán (1749-1782)

Military Colombian born in Charalá to 1749 and died on 1 February 1782 in Santafe de Bogota. Santandereano leader of the insurrection of the comuneros in 1781, is one of the most memorable figures in Colombian history, due to its execution by the Spanish authorities and that his memory has been perpetuated as a symbol of the struggle of the social groups of the Colombian society.

His father was a Galician of the same surname and his mother Paula Francisca Fox Creole. Its origin was humble, as much for being the son of peasants as by its mixed color, a quantitatively predominant sociorracial group but second order in the social pyramid of the 18th century. Galan just learned to sign. Almost all of his life he dedicated it to work as a day laborer, but did not own their own land; When the Mayor of Charala wanted to meet the point of the ruling which ordered seized his house and sprinkle it with salt, it should notify the authorities of Santa Fe which in their jurisdiction had not found "the amount of a quad, no less than José Antonio Galán had house or formal address on this". Very little is known of the life of Galan before 1781; just she was married and that he was sentenced by the authorities to pay for the military in the fixed Regiment of Cartagena, accused by his wife of committing incest with one of his daughters. Galan denied the accusation but acknowledged that "it had suggestions of the devil and some lascivious touches with it, which is false as it is said in it".

There are no known circumstances in which Galan was linked to the rise of the common, but having been appointed non-commissioned officer in the army indicates that it must have some ancestry among the plebeian circles that were linked to the uprising. In general, prominent social sectors in the region socorrana parapetaron in the direction of the movement after the offices of Captain, allowing natural heads of the mob placed as non-commissioned officers to ensure the cohesion and the obedience of the troop. Galan was promoted to Captain steering wheel then skirmish of Real bridge, on May 7, 1781, when the comuneros troops realized a small realistic task force that tried to stop the advance of the army of the common towards Santa Fe. Ascend to that position, which meant the permanent territorial displacement and the quality of agitator, influenced Galan military experience in his stay in Cartagena and its way of imposing order and discipline fighters over to the Real bridge assault.

The contradictions between Galan and the diligence of the movement began during the March to Zipaquira. It was not well seen that Galán declared free of taxes for indigenous, or you leave people of their weapons and the baton of Nemocón realistic authorities. For these facts Galán was imprisoned in this population, on 24 may, but should be released the next day because of ancestry which he enjoyed on the troop, which judged it as "a poor and much encouragement man"; and by intervention of the Generalissimo Juan Francisco Berbeo, who said that Galan was the best person to lead the commoner detachment that would obstruct communication between Santa Fe and Facatativa, and intercept weapons that had sent the viceroy from Cartagena. It is not disposable Berbeo pretended to enter into talks with the authorities of realistic and that it sought to exclude Galan of the field of Zipaquira, due to the radicalism that showed part of the commune troops, particularly from the region of Socorro, and leadership on the commoner captain had acquired. This claim of Berbeo would be clear in the next few days: May 31 Berbeo gave order to the Chief Ambrosio Pisco that happened with his troop to the vicinity of Santa Fe, and ensure that no one entered the capital of the Viceroyalty. Galan served the order to intercept the mail to apprehend the realistic picket driving it, but then ignored to the Generalissimo, disobeying his order to return and undertaking a campaign of agitation by some coastal towns of the Magdalena river on your own.

Documents it can be demonstrated that Galan disobeyed Berbeo expanding movement by the province of Mariquita, this does not make sense the accusation of "traitor" that the writer Enrique Caballero Escovar launched against Galan on the occasion of the bicentenary of the commune uprising. The writer was based on a letter attributed to Galán, where this supposedly prevented the Regent visitor Juan Francisco Gutiérrez de Piñeres, the Spanish officer who precipitated the rise of the common, the express order of Berbeo deliver his head with their fiscal measures. Obviously, Galan had such a Commission, as his campaign for those places came from its initiative, and because Berbeo always took care of engaging in behaviors that were then difficult to justify to the authorities. The sanction Berbeo and the leaders of the uprising claimed about the visitor was not death, but the estrangement, as it was stated in article 16 of the capitulations. On the other hand, it is well significant that Berbeo had not been called by the authorities to render disclaimers by the alleged order, and instead brought explanations about matters of lesser importance. Also note that Galan has not tried, in the course of the process, lessen the accusations that were made testing that had saved life Regent. In conclusion, it is likely that the Charter has been a trick of the own Gutiérrez de Piñeres to try to excuse the cowardice with which faced the hoist; the nervousness of the Regent visitor was, on several occasions, criticized even by the authorities of Santa Fe. Of the Charter, also not known original and its existence was certified by a subordinate officer of Gutiérrez de Piñeres.

It was during the campaign of Galan by the hoya of the Magdalena river when the common lifting showed his most revolutionary side. In the old provinces of Mariquita and Neiva, the uprising turned equally against landowners Creoles and Spaniards as against realistic authorities. The owners of the large estates had to seek refuge in safer populations, due to the uprising of black, Indian and mixed-race workers and white poor. In urban centers, there was also heavy clashes, without the raised could do this to the same domain, as occurred in the province of Socorro. That social war against the owners and white officials seemed to be summed up in the cry "death to the whites!".

In his tour of the area, Galan went through Guaduas on June 4, commanding an army of 200 to 300 men. Arriving in Mariquita, on June 16, it had 400 soldiers armed with Pikes, swords, Spears, machetes and some firearms. In this population, they gave him to know the contents of the capitulations of Zipaquira, without that accept therefore reimburse the money expropriated the King and individuals, of whom kept receipts and invested in the maintenance of the army. June 18 Galan took the hacienda of Malpaso and on 6 July, through its subordinate Javier Reyes, cocoa of San Juan de la Vega promoted the rebellion at the hacienda. On 20 July the commune chief emerged victorious ambushed Juan Antonio Fernández, prepared purification neighbor and who had the Mission of the actual agreement of Santafé de give it dead or alive. In his campaign Galan favored inter-racial confrontation, with the destruction of the instruments of torture used in the large estates and the liberation of black slaves. The struggle for the abolition of slavery and of the social order, nested based on the color of skin and the "purity of blood" appears linked to the idea of proclaiming to the Peru inca as new King of the new Kingdom, political notion so far ignored by a historiography determined to locate the independence war subsequent to the French Revolution of 1789, and between the enlightened circles of the Viceroyalty. That idea, which is at odds with the cry "Long live the King and death to bad government!" initial is related to Galan campaign by the hoya of the Magdalena river, and is accredited by Royal officers as Francisco Amaya, of the parish of ladybug, who claimed that Galan had come to "sow the seed that with this realm my monarch not reunite more and that the Inca was who would proclaim such". The idea could not have much development since it was being advocated by the illiterate sectors, but it is significant to the extent that the legitimacy of the monarchy invasive opposed the ancestral legitimacy of the most powerful Empire in the South of the continent; In addition, it highlights the fact that it would have been appropriate in the midst of an insurrectional process, by Blacks, Indians, mestizos and white poor, disadvantaged social sectors and that they endured the brunt of the colonial order. From the perspective of the Republican and democratic process of the 19th century was may claim that such political notion represented a walking backwards, because it meant the return to an already outdated indigenous monarchy; However, please note that the invocation of a political form of the past was based on the experience of the Spanish domination, and with the revolutionary practice of the appropriation of lands, of the abolition of the indigenous tribute and the liberation of black slaves. Historically it was a utopia, but at the end and within a creative and liberating dream.

July 26 Galan began the withdrawal of the hoya of the Magdalena river, to receive a communication from a commoner spy who informed him of the arrival in the town of Honda's realistic troops announced. His withdrawal was not secretive: went through Llano Grande, El Espinal, the table of Juan Díaz, Facatativa, and on 3 August arrived at Zipaquira, where burst into insults against the magistrate Carlos Burgos. In the first half of August came to Chiquinquirá, where he met the owner of the hacienda of San Juan de la Vega, that had where freed slaves; Squire tried it whip, while you insulted him calling it dog and thief. Galan addressed then to Santa Rosa de Cerinza, and on 2 September, the parish of Mogotes, where had his most faithful followers. Arrival reassured the popular sectors of the area where the hoist had originated because they had circulated rumors about his death and because they hoped to lead a new movement against realistic authorities. The idea of the social sector was Berbeo and the high leadership of the common had betrayed them and that nothing had changed. For this reason, the peoples of the region had expressed in more than sixteen riots, between June 20 and September 3, against the authorities, the captains of the common, bargaining in Zipaquirá and subsequent ignorance of the capitulations. Galan did not maintain any hope on the so-called proceedings of Archbishop Antonio Caballero y Góngora, who called a truce for one month, from September 10, with the aim of trying to enforce the capitulations. With that conviction, Galan was concerned about persuade allies buy time and not expect to conclude the truce proposed by the prelate, and with it the arrival of troops of Santa Fe. Since September 23 proposed accord, under gravity the oath, the objectives and the new path forward to tackle "this pernicious cancer that threatens our ruin in honour and estates, and when not lives, the infamous smear and successive reato blushes slavery". At the insistence of waiting that they culminated the days of the truce, the Chief of the common suggested that it was the last day, Oct. 10, when began the mobilization towards the capital of the Viceroyalty. His plan was to concentrate that day to residents of 15 parishes belonging to the jurisdictions of Pamplona and Sogamoso, in the town of Santa Rosa, then departure to Tunja and reach Guachetá, where reunite with the other division of the common army, composed of people of Socorro and San Gil, which should follow a similar route to the movement that culminated with the capitulations. In Guachetá, is intended to make war Council to define the plan of occupation of Santa Fe.

Galán postponed the concentration in Santa Rosa on October 15, and when he addressed Soatá to recruit people, was captured in the Chaguanete site, in the vicinity of Onzaga, before midnight on 13 October. Three days later, Galan and his companions arrived as prisoners to the village of Socorro. Any blacksmith wanted to place them and riveting them crickets; the apresor, Salvador silver, had to send his slaves to do so. The road to Santa Fe the defendants were planning what would say to the authorities; a bodyguard testified Galan insisted his companions that what would say to "principle, that was what had to say until the end". The trial against Galán and his companions began in the first days of November and culminating in the judgment of 30 January 1782. The arguments of Galan or defense, are not known since the totality of the record against the commune head has not been found. Either way, Galan not he could have saved his life, as previously had been given the order to deliver it live or dead, and then, when he learned of his arrest, authorities set out that he should be executed immediately. The measure is failed in relief, since he met when the defendant went on the road to Santa Fe. In that sense, it is also significant that in the sentence of death had expressed that against the same not operated or appeal or recourse, because they were criminals "convicted, avowed and notorious". On 30 January 1782 Galán wrote his will, naming a black slave of Charala as secured debtor. I had 31 pesos and they owed him $48; the text concluded saying: "what I must is my will pay what should I and in the remainder given to my wife and children". Galan did not die on the gallows as mandated by the ruling, but it was arcabuceado, since the executioner, a black, was not skilled at the craft. Subsequently, he was hung on the gallows and peers passed below it as part of the lesson. It was the day Friday, February 1, 1782.

Galan memory nor the residents will be collected by the founding fathers of independence, probably because the social emphasis of such a struggle and the behavior of its leaders was an inconvenient reference for the objectives proposed the war of independence. The memory of the commune leader will remain in the memory and the legend of the peasants from the province of Socorro, with characteristics that identify it with a social Bandit, rather than a precursor of the political independence from Spain.


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Gutierrez, J. F. Galán, and the Communards. Bucaramanga, Department printing press, 1939.