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Statue of Benkos Biohó
|Died||16 March 1621
Cartagena, New Kingdom of Granada, Spanish Empire
|Other names||King of Arcabuco|
Benkos Biohó (late 16th century — 1621), also known as Domingo Biohó, was said to have been born in either the Democratic Republic of Congo or Angola, where he was seized by the Portuguese Pedro Gomez Reynel, the dealer, sold to businessman Juan Palacios, and later, after transportation to what is now Colombia in South America, sold again to the Spaniard Alonso del Campo in 1596, in Cartagena de Indias. He established the maroon community of San Basilio de Palenque some time in the 16th century. He was betrayed and hanged by the governor of Cartagena in 1621.
The former African king escaped from the slave port of Cartagena with ten others and founded San Basilio de Palenque, then known as the "village of the Maroons". In 1713 it became the first free village in the Americas by decree from the King of Spain, when he gave up sending his troops on futile missions to attack their fortified mountain hideaway.
Biohó made his first escape when the boat that was transporting him down the Magdalena River sank. He was recaptured, but escaped again in 1599 into the marshy lands southeast of Cartagena. He organised an army that came to dominate all of the Montes de Maria region. He also formed an intelligence network and used the information collected to help organise more escapes and to guide the runaway slaves into the liberated territory, known as settlement. He used the title "king of Arcabuco".
On 18 July 1605, the Governor of Cartagena, Gerónimo de Suazo y Casasola, unable to defeat the Maroons, offered a peace treaty to Biohó, recognising the autonomy of the Matuna Bioho Palenque and accepting his entrance into the city armed and dressed in Spanish fashion, while the palenque promised to stop receiving more runaway slaves, cease their aid in escape attempts and stop addressing Biohó as "king". Peace was finalised in 1612 under the governorship of Diego Fernandez de Velasco. The treaty was violated by the Spaniards in 1619 when they captured Biohó as he was walking carelessly into the city. He was hanged and quartered on 16 March 1621. Governor Garcia Giron who ordered the execution, argued bitterly that "it was dangerous the respect Biohó generated in the population" and that "his lies and enchantment would drive the nations of Guinea away from the city."
By the end of the seventeenth century, the area of Montes de Maria had over 600 Maroons, under the command of Domingo Padilla, who claimed for himself the title of captain while his wife Jane adopted that of viceroy, and successfully challenged further attempts at sovereignty from the colonial authorities.
San Basilio de Palenque was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2005. At about 50 miles east of Cartagena, on hills of strategic value were used as lookout posts, still hear the names of the runaway Neighborhood: Sincerin, Mahates, Gambote.
- Africans in Americas
- Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora By Linda Marinda Heywood ISBN 0-521-00278-8
- Africa and the Americas: Interconnections During the Slave Trade By José C. Curto, Renée Soulodre-LaFrance Published 2005 Africa World Press Slave trade ISBN 1-59221-272-7
- Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience By Henry Louis Gates, Anthony Appiah ISBN 0-465-00071-1