|José Félix Ribas by Martín Tovar y Tovar, 1861|
After our sojourn to the bitter cold Russian winter yesterday, it's time to travel a little further afield for the tale of a Venezuelan rebel who was at the forefront of the fight for his country's independence.
Ribas was the youngest of eleven sons born to a prominent and wealthy family in Caracas, Venezuela. Fiercely intelligent and deeply charismatic, he was educated in a Caracas seminary amd assumed a civil service job, settling into adult life as the husband of María Josefa Palacios in 1796. However, as his politcal interests grew he became more and more involved in Republican politics and by 1808, was part of a conspiracy to revolt that saw his arrest and imprisonment.
As the people of Caracas gathered to decide their future on 19th April 1810, Ribas moved through the town encouraging them to take a stand against the ruling powers and they rallied to his call, overthrowing the Spanish authorities.
In the First Venezuelan Republic he proved an important figure in the the interim government, taking charge of the city of his birth and its environs. Named Colonel of the Barlovento Battalion, he became a leading member of the Sociedad Patriótica organized by Francisco de Miranda, which encouraged rights and free speech for all citizens.
Ribas invested his personal wealth in the military and fought proudly alongside Simon Bolívar, whom he joined in exile when the First Republic fell after just two years. From his exile he continued to fight on for independence and was known to his men as a courageous and valiant soldier with a keen eye for strategy.
When Ribas and his surviving soldiers fled after the Battle of Maturín he was betrayed to the royalists by a slave and captured. The rebel leader was beheaded and his severed head was returned to Caracas, where it was displayed as a warning to the people.