Pedro Camejo

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Bust of Pedro Camejo in Camp Carabobo

Pedro Camejo, better known as Negro Primero, or 'The First Black' (San Juan de Payara, Venezuela, 1790 – Campo Carabobo, Venezuela, June 24, 1821) was a Venezuelan soldier who at first fought with the royal army, only to later go over to the rebel army during the Venezuelan War of Independence, reaching the rank of lieutenant.

The nickname of Negro Primero was inspired by his bravery and skill in handling spears, and because he was always in the first line of attack on the battlefield. It is also attributed to his having been the only officer of colour in the army of Simon Bolívar.

Biography[edit]

Camejo was a slave of Vicente Alonzo in Apure. At the beginning of the movement for independence he was part of the royalist army. He joined the cause of liberation in 1816, entering the ranks, in Apure, of General José Antonio Páez with whom it is said he struck up a great friendship. In 1818, when the General-in-Chief Simón Bolívar arrived in San Juan de Payara, during the Campaign of the Centre, he saw Camejo for the first time. The bravery and robustness of the warrior, together with the recommendation given by General Páez, awoke Bolívar's interest, and he then struck up a brief conversation, formulating some questions which Pedro Camejo answered with ingenuity and simplicity, explaining that while he had initially joined the ranks of the republican army out of greed, he had later understood that the struggle had other, higher purposes.

Battle of Carabobo, oil painting by Martín Tovar y Tovar, Pedro Camejo lies dead in full dress uniform at the far bottom right.
Pedro Camejo with José Antonio Páez in the battle of Carabobo. Relief in Camp Carabobo

He was one of the 150 lancers who participated in the Battle of Las Queseras del Medio, and on that occasion he received the Order of Liberators of Venezuela. In the Battle of Carabobo, he fought with one of the cavalry regiments of the first division commanded by José Antonio Páez. Eduardo Blanco, in his book Venezuela Heroica, describes the moment when, gravely wounded, Camejo presented himself before General Páez and, with an unfailing voice said to him: "My general, I come to tell you goodbye, because I am dead". It is curious that José Antonio Páez in his autobiography does not describe the well-known actions of Camejo in the Battle of Carabobo, but rather limits himself to saying that Camejo fell mortally wounded with the first shots.

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