There have been stories of powerful kings, queens, royals, and many others who were exiled for resisting colonization and western oppression. There are also reports of enslaved African heroes who risked their lives and rebelled against white oppressors during slavery. They challenged the system to organize slave rebellions to demand racial justice and freedom.
In colonial Latin America, one of these enslaved African heroes was Marcos Xiorro, who dared to plan a revolt against plantation owners and the Spanish Colonial government in Puerto Rico in 1821. At the time he planned the revolt, the governor of Puerto Rico had ordered that any enslaved person who disrespected their owner would be punished with 50 lashes by civil authorities before being sent back to their owners for further punishment. Slaves who attempt to start a rebellion would be given 100 lashes.
Xiorro’s early childhood is not known. What is known is that he was a Bozal slave who was brought to the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico from Africa. His owner was Vicente Andino, a Militia Captain who owned a sugar plantation.
Following the success of the Haitian revolution in 1804, history says that the French fled to the Dominican Republic and from there moved to Puerto Rico, where they settled and made the island one of the largest exporters of sugar. Not too long after, Puerto Rican slave owners started having suspicions that the Haitians were planning to attack all the Spanish colonies. So slave owners began to mete out brutalization for even the most trivial of offenses. This compelled Xiorro to plan a rebellion that was to start on July 27, 1821, during the festival celebrations for Santiago (St. James).
Xiorro’s plan was that several slaves would flee their plantations and go to the sugarcane fields to retrieve the weapons hidden for the revolt. Xiorro and his fellow slaves Mario and Narciso would then lead the slaves of Bayamón and Tao Baja and capture the city of Bayamón. The plan is to burn the city and kill those who were not Black people. Then, they would all unite with slaves from nearby towns of Rio Piedras, Guaynabo and Palo Seco. Xiorro would then be made king.
Unfortunately, one loyal slave called Ambrosio revealed the plans to his owner, Miguel Figueres. At the time, slaves who alerted their owners of planned revolts were rewarded with freedom and a sum of 500 pesos. Ambrosio’s owner Figueres informed the mayor of Bayamón about the planned revolt, who then dispatched 500 soldiers.
Xiorro and his colleagues were captured in August, tried and executed. Some sources state that Xiorro was tried separately after he was captured in the city of Mayaguez on August 14 and his fate is not known. Even though his revolt was not successful, he became a legend among the island’s slave population and is now part of Puerto Rican folklore, according to this report.
On March 22, 1873, slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico but it came with one condition — the slaves had to buy their own freedom at a price set by their owners. Most of the freed slaves had to continue working for their former owners for some time under a kind of indentured servitude to enable them to get the money to purchase their freedom. The story of Marcos Xiorro, the African slave who dared to revolt in Puerto Rico in 1821