The cimarronaje is the process of resistance against the colonial system, which consisted of black slaves escaping from their masters. That is, any form of opposition to slavery in the New World was called maroon.
Disinterest in work, the destruction of their employment instruments, disobedience, rebellion and confrontation were some of the expressions of the rejection of discrimination by the maroons in Colonial times.
By depriving them of their freedom, the maroon sought permanent autonomy by fleeing from his master’s roof. The escape could be collective, individual or temporary. On some occasions the black slave only sought to improve the relationship with his owner.
The first step was flight, then came the tireless search for refuge in the remote fields of colonial society.
Already established somewhere in the mountains, the rebellious slaves formed a social organization, which unconsciously took the form of an autonomous population with social, economic and political systems called Palenques.
In the New World, the word cimarrón was used to designate domestic cattle that ran away from home to go to the fields. In the early days of Colonization the term was used to refer to runaway slaves.
Marooning became a channel for the liberation of slaves and social reorganization as a result of the construction and conformation of the palenques (Navarrete, 2001).
Black slaves rebelled against their masters and escaped from home to take refuge in the fields to later form palenques, thus becoming fugitives.
Running away from their owners and building palenques were the main elements to move towards absolute freedom according to the thoughts and ideologies of the maroons. However, for its owners, maroonage was considered the most serious crime.
Not only was it the biggest violation of the law, it also represented a financial loss for the fugitive’s master; furthermore, they had a great influence on the slaves who were still captives.
In the year 1522, the first uprising of black slaves appeared in Santo Domingo, in a well-known sugar crop. The rebel slaves colluded with others in the area; in this way they gave way to the rebellion in which thousands of Spaniards were murdered on Christmas night.
The Indians and Spaniards joined forces to counter the rebels. Defeated, the slaves fled from their captors into the mountains.
The most famous maroon during the viceroyalty of New Spain was called Yanga, and he proclaimed himself the prince of African land (Navarrete, 2001). His palenque was in what is now the state of Veracruz.
In an attempt to keep the peace, the authorities carried out pacifist campaigns, worth the redundancy, against the maroons.
The agreement was that the maroons would abide by the laws of the Spanish crown if the king, Luis de Velasco, granted Palenque de Yanga the status of a people in absolute freedom. This is how San Lorenzo acquired the title of free black community.
The main causes of the resistance were twofold, according to historian Anthony McFarlane:
-The first consists of a temporary escape, either individual or in a group, in which the maroon tries to moderate and improve the “coexistence” with its owner, that is, the treatment given by its master.
-The second deals with the permanent escape from slavery in an attempt to find freedom.
Search for freedom
Black slaves wanted to break the norms and laws of the colonial system that imprisoned them, while they aspired to form free and autonomous communities.
Bad life conditions
The living conditions were deplorable; That is why in a joint effort to improve the quality of life, the slaves created and implemented revolt strategies to later find alternative spaces to those reigned by colonization.
In this way, the palenques were mechanisms and tools used by black slaves as expressions of autonomy with the aim of rebelling against the economic and social system.
The maroon were carefully planned strategies with the intention of improving and evolving the quality of life of slaves through armed uprisings, or temporary escape.
Maroon in literature
One of the main outstanding literary works on maroon is the story of the Cuban rebel Esteban Montejo, written by the anthropologist Miguel Barnet, ttitled “Biography of a Cimarrón”.
It narrates the experiences and strategies of Montejo when he was born into slavery, to later escape to the mountains and join the fight for Cuban independence.
Written as a testimony, the book portrays the reality of black slaves in colonial Cuba, from their work, through spiritual ceremonies to the infinite racial discrimination experienced by women and men slaves in their daily lives.
Cimarronaje in Venezuela
According to the Afro-Colombian movement descended in this country, the Maroon consisted of endless rebellions or uprisings by the enslaved and enslaved against the enslavers in an effort to defend their dignity.
African shelters in Colombia were known as quilombos, where people from different parts of Africa gathered to practice their ancestral worldview, spiritual rituals, dances, and preservation of languages.
In short, black slaves in Venezuela came together to preserve their African philosophy. This attitude went against the values of Christianity.
One of the great heroes of Maroon and Venezuelan history was King Miguel. It was in 1552 when this character became a maroon when he rose up in the gold mines where he worked.
By rebelling against mistreatment by colonialism , many other black slaves who experienced the same exploitation joined in, thus forming the first expression of freedom in Venezuela.
Andrés López de Rosario
Then he was followed by Andrés López de Rosario, better known as “Andresóte”; who rebelled against the scourges of the Monopoly in 1732.
Jose Leonardo Chirino
Finally José Leonardo Chirino, who led the uprising against the hacienda slavers in 1795.
Cimarronaje in Panama
It was in the year 1510 when black slaves appeared for the first time on the isthmus of Panama. Nine years later it was the same slaves who painstakingly built each foundation of what is now Panama City.
The uprisings, uprisings or rebellions did not take long to appear, since the treatment of black slaves was barbaric, especially in this city.
The punishments to which the maroons were subjected were based on castration of men, cutting off women’s breasts, and other inhumane punishments. In addition, the maroon rebels of Panama were known for providing routes to pirates.
It was then that an Afro-descendant made the decision to resist the cruel subjugations of the owners, his name was Bayano.
He organized a huge flight of black slaves in 1548 to later join forces and build an autonomous community where Bayano was proclaimed king.
After incessant confrontations between maroons and the crown, the colonial authorities asked for a peace treaty by arresting the maroon king Bayano. Although an agreement was reached, the maroon did not give up, the fight for freedom never ended.
Bayano was captured by the Spanish. It was sent to Seville, Spain, where it was bought by the enemy: the Spanish crown. The fight for the freedom of the maroon hero fell into the arduous tasks and eternal slavery imposed by royalty.
- McFarle, Anthony. (1993). Colombia Before Indepence. Cambridge University Press.
- A. Dieuf, Sylvianne. (2014). Slavery’s Exile: The Story of the American Maroons. NYU Press.
- Taylor, Ernest, Daye, Marcella, Kneafsey, Moya, Barrett, Hazel, Exploring cultural connectedness in the sustainability of rural community tourism development in Jamaica. STEPS. Tourism and Cultural Heritage Magazine [on line] 2014, 12.Taken from in redalyc.org.
- Hoogbergen, Wim, Kruijt, Dirk, Gold, garimpeiros and maroons: brazilian migrants and ethnic relationships in post-war suriname. Caribbean Studies [on line] 2004, 32 (July-December). Taken from redalyc.org
- Perez; Berta: The Journey to Freedom: Maroon Forebears in Southern Venezuela. Ethnohistory [on line] 2001 (October). Taken from read.dukeupress.edu
- Narvaez, M Cristina: El Cimarronaje, an alternative of freedom for black slaves. National Historical Archive of Madrid [On line] 2001 (January). Taken from researchgate.net
- CASTAÑO, ALEN, Palenques and Cimarronaje: processes of resistance to the colonial slave system in the Sabanero Caribbean (16th, 17th and 18th centuries). CS Magazine [online] 2015, (May-August). Taken from redalyc.org.