This Day in Freedom Fighter History


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Dec 7, 2012
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Today, February 2nd, marks 503 years since the execution of Hatuey, a Taíno who became the first high-profile casualty in the American (native) resistance to European invasion.

Hatuey was from Hispaniola (the island now split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic), which was then called in the Taíno language Ayiti. In 1511, Spaniard Diego Velazquez set forth for the Cuban island of Caobana. Hatuey took four hundred warriors and went ahead to Caobana to warn the population.

Bartholome de las Casas recounts that he showed the Caobanans a basket of gold and jewels, explaining:
(Wiki) :
"Here is the God the Spaniards worship. For these they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea... They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, seduce our women, violate our daughters. Incapable of matching us in valor, these cowards cover themselves with iron that our weapons cannot break...[3]"

The people of Caobana did not believe Hatuey's message, and few joined him to fight. Hatuey resorted to guerrilla tactics against the Spaniards, and was able to confine them to their fort at Baracoa. Eventually the Spaniards succeeded in capturing him. On February 2, 1512,[2] he was tied to a stake and burned alive at Yara.[1]

Before he was burned, a priest asked him if he would accept Jesus and go to heaven. Las Casas recalled the reaction of the chief:

[Hatuey], thinking a little, asked the religious man if Spaniards went to heaven. The religious man answered yes... The chief then said without further thought that he did not want to go there but to hell so as not to be where they were and where he would not see such cruel people. This is the name and honor that God and our faith have earned.[4]
Hatuey Wiki


292 years later Hispaniola would see the formation of the second (after the U.S.) independent republic in the Americas to win a war of independence against a European colonial power and the only one to defeat no fewer than three European colonial powers (England, Spain and France) and the only nation in the world established as a result of a slave revolt. They would name the new country after the Taíno name for the island, and we know it today as Haiti.
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