Biography of Santiago Mariño:
Santiago Mariño (25 July 1788- 4 September 1854) was a Venezuelan general, patriot and one of the great leaders of Venezuela’s War of Independence from Spain. He later tried several times to become President of Venezuela, and even seized power for a short time in 1835. His remains are housed in Venezuela’s National Pantheon, a mausoleum designed to honor the greatest heroes and leaders of the country.
Mariño's Entry into the War of Independence:
Mariño was born into a wealthy family on Venezuela's Margarita Island and thus received a good education. He joined the Independence movement as a junior officer during the First Venezuelan Republic and soon distinguished himself as an able commander. He was promoted to Colonel before the Republic fell. Like the other leaders of the republic, he went into exile in 1812. In exile in Trinidad, he organized an invasion of liberation. On January 11, 1813, he set out with 45 likeminded patriots, who traveled to mainland Venezuela in canoes.
Mariño and the Second Venezuelan Republic:
Soon his army had swelled, and before long Mariño was greatly feared by royalist forces in Eastern Venezuela. Mariño was a ruthless opponent, repaying atrocities with atrocities, often executing Spaniards whenever he captured them. In 1813, Simón Bolívar launched his famous "Admirable Campaign" in which he invaded Venezuela from the west: it never would have succeeded without Mariño tying up royalist forces in the east. When Bolívar set up the second Venezuelan Republic, Mariño organized a government of his own.
Fall of the Second Republic:
Mariño eventually agreed to work with Bolívar, and the Second Venezuelan Republic was established. Their combined army was defeated, however, at the Second Battle of La Puerta on June 15, 1814 by "the Infernal Legion," an army of tough-as-nails plainsmen under the command of Spanish warlord Tomas Boves. Boves' army, when combined with other royalist forces, proved irresistible, and Caracas fell in July. Bolívar and Mariño fled to Margarita Island and then Cartagena.
Mariño the Warlord:
The years from 1815 to 1819 were particularly violent and chaotic in Venezuela. Mariño became a powerful patriot general in the east. He was essentially a warlord: he had a large army that answered to him alone, as the region had no functional government. He was one of several such men in Venezuela at the time: others included fellow patriots Bolívar, José Antonio Páez and Manuel Piar and royalists Tomas Morales and Pablo Morillo. Mariño would often co-operate with Bolívar and the others, but just as often he would not.
Mariño and the Other Warlords:
Mariño helped Bolívar win some key battles, but also was instrumental in temporarily exiling Bolivar on more than one occasion. Mariño always felt that he would be a better Liberator than Bolívar and occasionally tried to separate Eastern Venezuela into his own fiefdom. In early 1817, Mariño established a nation called the United States of Venezuela: when the Spanish routed his armies, he was forced to abashedly join with Bolívar. It wasn’t until Bolívar ordered the execution of General Manuel Piar in 1817 that the other warlords, including Mariño, reluctantly fell in line and started taking orders from Bolívar.
Mariño the Statesman:
In 1819 Colombia was definitively liberated by Bolívar, who began picking off royalist armies in Venezuela, aided by Mariño, Páez and others. Mariño fought with distinction in the 1821 Battle of Carabobo which effectively ended Spanish rule in Venezuela. For the next few years, Mariño served as a representative of Eastern Venezuela in the various congresses that attempted to forge Gran Colombia out of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. He also served as a high-ranking military officer.
The Reform Revolution:
With the death of Bolívar in 1830, Gran Colombia collapsed and the nations of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador formed. Mariño ran for President of Venezuela in 1835 but was defeated by José María Vargas. Mariño led a coup in 1835 he called “the Reform Revolution” but only managed to cling to power for a short while before forces under General José Antonio Páez drove him out of power and into exile.
Later Life of Santiago Mariño:
In 1848, he was invited back to Venezuela by President José Tadeo Monagas to serve as commander of the army against an uprising by his old nemesis, Páez. Páez was driven off, and Mariño went into semi-retirement, although he continued to meddle in Venezuelan politics and affairs. He was even jailed for a brief time in 1853. He passed away quietly in La Victoria in 1854.
Legacy of Santiago Mariño:
Santiago Mariño is considered one of the greatest heroes of Venezuelan Independence. He was a key leader of the struggle throughout the independence period. The Spanish feared him greatly for his leadership and ruthlessness.
The same qualities that made him a great leader also occasionally caused him to quarrel with Bolívar. Their frequent disputes notwithstanding, Mariño supported the Liberator more often than not. His aid was particularly vital during the Admirable Campaign, during the chaotic years from 1815 to 1819 and in the final 1821 conquest of the last royalist forces in Venezuela.
The people of Venezuela have honored Mariño by naming a municipality after him in the State of Aragua. There is also a university that bears his name as well as any number of streets and boulevards. His remains are housed in the National Pantheon, an honor reserved for very few Venezuelans.
Harvey, Robert. Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2000.
Lynch, John. The Spanish American Revolutions 1808-1826 New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986.
Lynch, John. Simon Bolivar: A Life. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.
Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars, Volume 1: The Age of the Caudillo 1791-1899 Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2003.