Message by Massacre: Venezuela's War to the Death, 1810–1814

TitleMessage by Massacre: Venezuela's War to the Death, 1810–1814
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRacine, Karen
JournalJournal of Genocide Research

During the ‘War to the Death’, which took place in Venezuela (and parts of modern-day Colombia) between 1813–1815, there was an extensive campaign of symbolic violence on both the patriot and royal sides, with various types of massacres being carried out against specific targets and by specific groups, with racialized or gendered overtones often laid over the more obvious political categories. ... Both the royalist and patriot sides engaged in body-related communication through the sending of notes written in blood, the hanging of corpses in sacred places, the taking of ears and other body parts to be worn as part of a triumphant Indian-style war costume. Both sides courted the local slave population and incorporated imagined elements of African warfare to augment their message. Depending on the particular context, rumours of imagined African-style cannibalism were floated among populations to create fear and hostility. The essay is based on eight years of archival research in Venezuela, Spain, Britain and the United States, along with contemporary memoirs, correspondence, newspaper accounts, travelogues, and extensive secondary literature in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. [modified from publisher]

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