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Antonio Ricaurte was a patriot of the Independence of Colombia and Venezuela and captain of Bolivar's army. He is remembered as the martyr of the Battle of San Mateo, where, in a heroic action, he blasted an enemy stronghold by immolating himself.
Antonio Ricaurte was born in a family with a military tradition. He was the son of Esteban Ricaurte and Maria Clemencia Lozano, who was the daughter of Jorge Lozano de Peralta, Marquis of San Jorge, renowned collaborator of the Revolt of the Comuneros of 1781 against the rule of the Spanish Crown.
He studied at the San Bartolome School in Bogota between 1799 and 1804, and later married Juana Martinez Camacho, niece of patriot Joaquin Camacho, who mentored him into the colonial bureaucracy and through whose influence Ricaurte was appointed chamber scribe and secretary of the Accounts Tribunal of the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada.
Early military career
He participated in the revolutionary acts of July 20, 1810, in Bogota, as a rebel against the colonial regime; for his bold performance, his comrades gave him the nickname El Chispero ("the spark lighter"). The commanders of the revolution entrusted him with the mission of keeping watch over the Viceroy Antonio Amat y Borbon at the Accounts Tribunal. When the patriot militias were organized, Ricaurte was incorporated to the infantry battalion of the National Guard, with the rank of lieutenant.
During the first years of the United Provinces of New Granada, when a division between centralists and federalists occurred, Ricaurte supported Antonio Narino and the centralists and fought on their side in the first civil war of New Granada. He fought the battle of Alto de la Virgen in Ventaquemada, where his troops were defeated on December 2, 1812. Subsequently, on January 9, 1813, he participated in the battle of San Victorino in Santafe, which gave the triumph to the centralists.
War of Independence
In 1813 he was recruited in the army of New Granada under the then brigadier Simon Bolivar, to fight for the liberty of Venezuela, in what is known as the "Admirable Campaign." In this first "Liberating Army," he fought at the battles of La Grita (April 13), Carache (June 19), Niquitao (July 2), and Taguanes (July 31) among others.
Battle of San Mateo
In 1814 a series of battles between patriots and royalists took place in a region called Valles de Aragua (Valleys of Aragua), in what is now Venezuela. The main house of the San Mateo estate, property of Simon Bolivar, was placed under the custody of Ricaurte and a small troop of fifty soldiers. During the royalists' attack, the army under the royalists' Second Commander Francisco Tomas Morales took hold of most of the estate, including the main house, which was used as the principal ammunition's deposit.
Realizing how the battle of San Mateo would be lost if the main house remained in the hands of the royalists, Captain Ricaurte ordered his men to leave and lit a barrel of gunpowder inside one of the ammunition storage facilities of the main house, thus killing himself and a large number of the royalist troops who were readily occupying the precincts. During the momentary disorder which followed the explosion, Bolivar seized the opportunity and launched an attack to regain control of the main house and later the whole of the estate.
The Battle of San Mateo ended with the resounding triumph of the patriots' army. It was later estimated the royalists lost more than ten times as many soldiers as the patriots during the battle.
Antonio Ricaurte was a fervent freemason and to date the Lodge of Zulia, Venezuela, is named in his honor.
Captain Ricaurte's heroic action is also remembered in the last verse of Colombia's National Anthem, :
FUNDACION POLAR. Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela. Caracas: 1997, second edition.
ROMERO MARTINEZ, VINICIO. ...Y Ricaurte se inmolo en San Mateo. Caracas: Edigraph, 1973.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Antonio Ricaurte