The Young, Strong, and Brave Policarpa Salavarrieta


A couple of years ago, my mother watched a telenovela called La Pola: Amar La Hizo Libre. This telenovela was different from the other cheesy ones in my opinion. It was not about a man choosing between a lover and his wife, Dos Mujeres, Un Camino. It was not about antsy teenagers falling in love with their teachers, Sonadoras. It was not about a little orphan looking for a happy family, Luz Clarita.

La Pola was about a mixed-Indigenous woman who fought for the freedom of her mestizo, mulatto, and Indigenous people in South America in the 1800s. Her full name was Policarpia Salavarrieta, daughter of a peasant mestizo family in Guaduas, Colombia. As a little girl, she noticed how the Spanish treated her people. They sneered at her mestizo, Indigenous, and mulatto people for being part of “la sangre sucia” class, which literally translates to “dirty blood.” The Spanish society, however, thought of themselves as “sangre azul” which literally translates to “pure blood.” The latter signifies their justification to hold power over the colonized population because they were “more intelligent” and “more Christian-like” people.

She also noticed that all the money her father, her uncles, and her cousins made went directly to the Spanish crown. They were whipped if they did not turn in their cattle. Some were sent to prison for any rebellion against the king. The Spanish took advantage of the poor class. Pola knew this was unfair, but she had no idea how to stop it.

Unfortunately, in her teenage years, a plague invaded Colombia and wiped out almost everybody she knew in Guaduas. The plague killed her parents and her three siblings. She became an orphan and was sent to live with a relative in the capital Santa Fe de Bogota. From that point on, La Pola became an underground activist. She met people who taught her how to read and write, how to resist Spanish colonialism, and how to create an uprising by informing the mestizo people the truth about their mixed-identity. She reminded the mestizo people of their Indigenous ancestors.

She said, “Mestizo brothers and sisters, who are they (the Spanish crown) to tell us that we are la sangre sucia, that we are the lowest rank in society when our Indian ancestors ruled this land and lived in complex communities? Who are they, those invaders, who come to our lands all the way from the Europe and steal our timber, oil, gold, and silver?”

She finished with this quote, “I am a proud mestiza because I am Indigenous and Spanish. I come from both worlds and we form the new mixed-race. This land is our land. This soil is our soil. This air is our air because it belongs to our people and to our ancestors. We are the mestizo pride.”

Her courage and perseverance led and inspired a crowd of mixed-race people to fight for their independence in the 1800s. But this was also the reason she was assassinated at twenty three years of age.

The Spanish crown ordered her execution in 1821. She committed an act of treason by going against the King and his viceroyalty. Her last words were words of encouragement to her mestizo people. She told them to fight and resist after she was gone because freedom was at the tip of their fingers. When the Spanish soldiers shot her to death, the mestizo people fought for their independence. It was because of Policarpia Salavarrieta that Simon Bolivar and Martin de Sucre liberated the Spanish colonies. She was only twenty three when she made a difference.

Like Policarpia Salavarrieta said, I echo to you, “Be a proud Indo-mestizo because our people come from this land, too. The colonies might have liberated themselves from the Spanish crown, but we are still resisting and fighting for our Indigenous brothers and sisters who are under colonial power in new world orders. Believe it or not, we are also under that power.”

The picture below is the statue of La Pola in La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia. I went there for a visit and took a picture next to the honorable Pola.


This entry was posted in October 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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