Bolero by Milo Manara

By Milo Manara

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The rebels could defend themselves for a while, but they could not prevent government troops from destroying their livelihood and moving the rest of the townsfolk to some of the least desirable land of the island. And what about the more than 70 defendants found guilty of breaking the monopoly and consorting with the heretics? 25 The depopulation and destruction of the coastal settlements left the colony, well, devastated. With the loss of income, the derechos reales, royal duties or taxes, came down to nothing, and with no payment of duties, there was no local income with which to maintain president, tribune and cabildo or town council.

By directing a strategy of mobile, hit-and-run warfare, Lemba succeeded in resisting and evading the colonial forces for all of 15 years. Burning and sacking their way from Higüey to Yaguana, Lemba’s group of guerrilleros negros evaded the Spanish authorities until 1547, the year in which the troops captured and executed the rebel leader, hanging his severed head from a gateway as an example to others who would dare disobey their white masters. Slave insurrections continued through the mid-century, some led by Diego de Ocampo, Juan Criollo, and other valiants.

The governor sent the 150 soldiers of the Puerto Rico garrison to enforce the decree, subsequently ordering them to burn all buildings and plantings of the coastal zone and the nearby interior, eliminating therewith any reason for the dislodged settlers to return. Montero succeeded in evading Osorio’s troops; Dominican mulattos and manumitted fought alongside the white vecinos against them. The rebels could defend themselves for a while, but they could not prevent government troops from destroying their livelihood and moving the rest of the townsfolk to some of the least desirable land of the island.

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