Antonio Valero de Bernabé
|Antonio Valero de Bernabé|
Brigadier General Antonio Valero de Bernabé
|Nickname(s)||The Liberator from Puerto Rico|
|Born||October 26, 1790
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
|Died||June 7, 1863
Mexican Revolutionary Army,
|Years of service||1807-1863|
|Commands held||Military Chief of the Department of Panama,
Governor of Puerto Cabello,
Chief of Staff of Colombia,
Minister of War and Maritime of Venezuela
|Battles/wars||Battle of Zaragoza,
Independence of South America
|Awards||The Bust of the Liberator of Venezuela,
The Medal of the Liberators of Mexico,
The Bust of the Liberator of Peru,
Medal del Callao
Antonio Valero de Bernabé[note 1] (October 26, 1790 – June 7, 1863), aka The Liberator from Puerto Rico, was a Puerto Rican military leader. Trained in Spain, he fought with the Spanish Army to expel the French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, from Spain and was promoted to colonel during these years.
He returned to the New World and joined the Mexican movement for independence next, and was appointed as a Brigadier General. Later he joined Simón Bolívar to fight for the independence from Spain of nations in South America, fighting for Colombia, Peru, Panama. He also supported the independence of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Like Bolivar, he advocated forming a federation of Latin American nations.
Valero de Bernabé was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico; his father, Cayetano Valero de Bernabé, was an officer in the Spanish Army and his mother, Rosa Pacheco de Onormandía, came from a wealthy Puerto Rican family. When he was quite young, his father died. Bernabe was sent by his family to Spain to study military science; he graduated as a junior officer in 1807.
Marriage and family
While in Spain, the young officer had married María Madrid. They had several children together. When he left Spain, he took his family with him to Mexico and later South America.
Spanish military service
Valero de Bernabé had recently graduated from the military academy when Napoleon Bonaparte convinced King Charles IV of Spain to permit the French leader to pass through Spain with his army to attack Portugal. When Napoleon later refused to leave Spanish soil, the government declared war. Valero de Bernabé joined the Spanish Army and helped defeat Napoleon's army at the Siege of Saragossa (1808) in the Peninsular War, also known as the Spanish War of Independence. After this action, Valero de Bernabé was awarded many decorations and promoted to the rank of colonel.
When Ferdinand VII assumed the throne of Spain in 1813, Valero de Bernabé became critical of the new king's policies towards the Spanish colonies in Latin America. He developed a keen hatred of the monarchy, resigned his commission in the army, and in 1821 emigrated to Mexico with his family.
Mexican military service
In Mexico he joined the Army of the Three Guarantees headed by Agustín de Iturbide, and was appointed as Chief of Staff. He successfully fought for Mexico's independence from Spain, achieved in 1821, after which the people proclaimed Iturbide the Emperor of Mexico. Since Valero de Bernabé had developed anti-monarchist feelings following his experiences in Spain, he revolted against Iturbide. It did not succeed and he fled the country, but was captured by a Spanish pirate. Turned over to the authorities in Cuba, he was imprisoned. Valero de Bernabé escaped from jail with the help of a group of pro-Bolívar men, supporters of an independent South America.
Liberator from Puerto Rico
Upon learning of Bolívar's dream, Valero de Bernabé decided to join him. He went to St. Thomas, where he established contacts with the Puerto Rican independence movement. He travelled to Venezuela where he was met by General Carlos Soublette. Soublette introduced him to General Francisco de Paula Santander, Vice-President of the Republic of Colombia. Santander appointed Valero de Bernabéhim as Brigadier General of the Colombian Army. Together with the forces of General Antonio José de Sucre, Valero de Bernabé and his men helped win the battle of Ayacucho, which gained independence for Peru.
He subsequently was introduced to Bolívar and gained his confidence. In 1826, Valero de Bernabé was appointed by Bolivar as Military Chief of the Department of Panama; he successfully defended Panama from a Spanish invasion intended to regain control of the area.
In April 1828, Bolívar called for a constitutional convention at Ocaña. While he had hoped to create a federation among the Latin American nations, individual interests were too strong and competing. Many of the new governments had little or no allegiance to liberal principles, and Valero de Bernabé's dream that Puerto Rico and Cuba would be liberated from Spanish rule was not realized. There were many disagreements and rivalries among the delegates. For example, General's José Antonio Páez of Venezuela and Francisco de Paula Santander of Colombia differed in ideas and became bitter enemies. The governments of the United States, France, England and Mexico claimed to have commercial interests in both islands and were against their becoming independent. The Latin American nations did not support fighting for them.
Valero de Bernabé founded the Liberal Party of Venezuela. Among the many positions which he held were: "Military Chief of the Department of Panama", "Governor of Puerto Cabello", "Chief of Staff of Colombia", "Minister of War and Maritime of Venezuela"  Throughout his career, he was always loyal to Bolívar, with whom he became firm friends. Later falsely accused of plotting against the Liberator, he was sent into exile in St. Thomas with his family.
Later years and Legacy
When Bolívar died in 1830, Valero de Bernabé was permitted by the government of Venezuela to serve as an honour guard at his funeral. In 1853 Venezuela honoured Valero de Bernabé by presenting him with "The Bust of the Liberator of Venezuela".
In his lifetime, Valero de Bernabé was also awarded:
- "The Medal of the Liberators of Mexico",
- "The Bust of the Liberator of Peru", and the
- "Medal del Callao"
Antonio Valero de Bernabé continued to be politically active until the day that he died June 7, 1863, in Bogotá, Colombia, where he was buried. In 1874, the Venezuelan government built a National Pantheon of the Founding Fathers where the remains of their heroes were to be placed. Valero de Bernabé's name is inscribed on the monument but his remains, which were never located, were not placed at the site. Puerto Rico has also honored Valero de Bernabé's memory by naming a school and an avenue after him. There is also a statue of Valero de Bernabé in the city of Fajardo, his native city.
- List of famous Puerto Ricans
- List of Puerto Rican military personnel
- Simón Bolívar
- Agustín de Iturbide
- María de las Mercedes Barbudo
- Ducoudray Holstein Expedition