Caracas, June 25th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The symbolic remains of Afro-Venezuelan independence hero, Pedro Camejo or “Negro Primero,” have been transferred to the nation’s “Hall of Heroes” mausoleum in Caracas in a ceremony paying homage to the 194th anniversary of the decisive anti-colonial Battle of Carabobo.
Camejo, who was born into slavery to Guadeloupian parents, was the only high ranking Afro-descendant official in the Venezuelan independence forces led by Simon Bolivar, which eventually secured the country’s liberation from Spanish colonial rule in 1821. Known as “Negro Primero” (Black man at the fore) for his bravery in battle, he was awarded the “Liberator’s Order” by Bolivar in 1819.
The Cavalry Lieutenant was killed in action on June 24th during the legendary Battle of Carabobo which sealed Venezuelan independence. He has become an evocative symbol of Black Power within the country’s Bolivarian Revolution over the last fifteen years.
According to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro,the “beloved and celebrated” figure of Negro Primero had hitherto been excluded from the national pantheon of liberators due to “historic racism”.
“A people which is aware of its history is a people that can build a future,” added the head of State at the official ceremony.
On June 17th, a pilgrimage bearing a symbolic casket containing Camejo’s personal pocket knife and soil taken from the land he liberated set out from the western state of Apure where the anti-colonial hero was born.
This Wednesday saw the culmination of the casket’s journey to the capital city, where it was accompanied by thousands in a sombre parade beneath the battering rain before finally being laid to rest beside Venezuelan liberation hero, Simon Bolivar.
“This is a necessary moment in history,” declared Maduro from the televised service, which was attended by high ranking politicians, the Bolivarian armed forces, social movements and international figures such as the Prime Minister of San Vicente and the Grenadines, Ralph E. Gonsalves, and Hollywood actor, Danny Glover.
Camejo’s official admission into the pantheon has been described as a “historic debt” to Venezuela’s Afro-descendant population, whose vital role in Venezuela’s independence struggle has been omitted from official history accounts until recently.
“Our liberator could not bring Negro Primero to Caracas, but we are bringing him, the patriots of 2015… It is part of our history, the recognition of those who gave their lives and set an example in order to free our homeland… You will not take our symbols from us, no matter how hard you try, you cannot take them away from the consciousness of our people,” said the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
During the ceremony, Maduro also reiterated his government’s support for CARICOM’s (Community of the Caribbean) demands for reparations from European countries for their role in colonial slavery, which he admonished as “the greatest holocaust” in history.
In 2011 Venezuela’s National Assembly passed the “Law against Racial Discrimination” which legally requires the recognition of the country’s Afro-descendant population in the construction of the Venezuelan nation.