Rewarding Loyalty after the Wars of Independence in Spanish America: Displaced Bureaucrats in Cuba

  • Sarah C. Chambers
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Spaniard Francisco de Paula Vilches was on the verge of a promising career in royal administration. After serving four years in Spain as legal counsel for the navy, he was appointed as a magistrate on the High Court (Audiencia) of Caracas. However, a posting to Venezuela in 1811, the year that an assembly in Caracas had declared the colony’s independence, was much riskier than it would have been a few years earlier. Although the separatists were expelled from Caracas by the time Vilches arrived in 1812, war continued to rage throughout this province of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, twice forcing members of the Audiencia to evacuate. ‘During those turbulent and calamitous times’, in the words of Treasury Official Juan Muñoz, ‘was when Mr Vilches energetically deployed all possible measures in favour of the public good’.1 Muñoz and a few other witnesses went so far as to conjecture that had more authorities acted like Vilches, advocating the rule of law rather than military repression, Spain might not have lost the colony to revolution. Having risen to the rank of Dean in the Caracas court, in 1818 Vilches was promoted to Regent, the highest position, of the Audiencia of Guatemala. Although his new posting was calm in comparison to Venezuela, in 1821 leading citizens in Guatemala also declared independence from Spain, and Vilches joined a growing number of displaced colonial administrators seeking refuge on the island of Cuba.


Legal Counsel Colonial Official Partial Salary Full Salary Close Destination 
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  1. 3.
    The historiography for Cuba in the early nineteenth-century focuses more on the rising sugar economy than on issues of governance; in terms of the movement of people, most attention has been on the dramatic rise in Spanish troops on the island with the withdrawals from the former colonies on the mainland, the growing importation of African slaves, and the immigration of Spaniards from the peninsula. For a recent analysis of race and Cuban loyalty, see David Sartorius, Ever Faithful: Race, Loyalty, and the Ends of Empire in Spanish Cuba (Durham, NC, 2013).Google Scholar
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© Sarah C. Chambers 2016

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