Beginning to 2:20, 10:48-27:08
The scenes I have identified in this episode deal with Bolivar’s time in Jamaica after the defeat of the Second Venezuelan Republic. The Second Republic had fallen just like the first one had done: because the criollo (white) leadership of the revolution was unwilling to share power with the casta (non-whites) and, as a result, their armies had been forced to do battle, not just against the Spanish, but also against slave uprisings and pardo militias (mixed-race free peoples). One of those casta armies, led by an exiled Spaniard name Tomas Boves, had badly defeated Bolivar’s army and caused him to flee to Jamaica. Bolivar used Jamaica as a base to regroup and raise money from the British and neighboring Haiti (now an authoritarian republic composed of former slaves) to launch a new invasion.
While there, Bolivar did what he often did when in financial trouble: he found a wealthy woman to seduce. In this case, it was Julia Cobier, a wealthy Dominican criolla (which meant she was white) who was herself in exile in Jamaica. He was sleeping with Cobier when his slave Pio attempted to murder him by stabbing him while sleeping in his hammock. The person in Bolivar’s hammock, however, was not the Liberator, but, instead, one of his criollo officers (who was white).
When you watch these scenes, pay attention to the casting choices for the different roles. Notice also the relationships between Bolivar and nonwhites, including Pio and Bolivar’s constant companion, Dionisio, who is a fictitious character that has a big role in all the episodes.
This episode changes the actor who play Bolivar and takes place a few years after Bolivar’s Jamaican exile. It deals with the alliance Bolivar formed with the pardo general Paez who commanded the llaneros, essentially cowboys who herded cattle and were armed with lances. Paez had defeated Boves, the commander of the pardo army that had defeated Bolivar.
The scene depicted here is based on the actual meeting of the two, which went quite differently than in the film. In reality, Bolivar and Paez met and discussed traveling downriver to attack Morillo, an attack that Bolivar was skeptical about because they had no boats. Paez told Bolivar there were plenty of boats across the river where a Spanish army was encamped (this was wide river, not like the one depicted in the film). Bolivar was disdainful, thinking Paez was trolling him. But he wasn’t. Paez ordered a company of his men to ride across the river (they guided their swimming horses when the river got too deep to walk). When they got to the other side, they fought the Spanish and returned with numerous boats. Bolivar watched the whole episode through a spy glass from the non-Spanish held side of the river.
When you watch these scenes, pay attention to the relationship between Bolivar and Paez and his men.
Episode 55: beginning to 9:10, 13:15-21:59
This episode deals with Bolivar’s political philosophy and his justification for dictatorship. He and his fellow general Santander had split over issues of governance. Santander believed in the rule of law and a more democratic system of governance rather than a dictatorship where the government responded to the whims of one man. Bolivar opposed limits on his powers.
What I want you to focus on here is the portrayal of the two sides in this conflict and Bolivar’s justification for having a dictatorship. Pay attention to visual and music cues as well as dialogue to get a sense of which side the filmmakers seem to support.
Here is the debate prompt:
DEBATE #5 TOPIC:
address the issue of power and democracy/dictatorship in overt and subtle ways. Both productions dramatize relations between the Criollo elite (wealthy, white men like Simon Bolivar who have only Spanish heritage) and the Casta (peoples of Indian and African descent and the mixed-raced offspring of various combinations of Spanish, Indian, and African who are generally poor and face social, legal, and economic discrimination under the Spanish caste system). Both also address Bolivar’s complex beliefs and politics that were in some ways democratic and in others extremely authoritarian. How do these films portray those dynamics and relationships? How do the films portray Bolivar’s attitudes towards the Casta and Casta freedom as expressed in terms of a preference for democratic or autocratic rule? Is the Simon Bolivar portrayed on film a democratically minded man of the people (Casta)? Or is he more like the way he is typically portrayed by historians: a complicated man whose democratic beliefs were trumped by his bigotry against the Casta, his unwillingness to truly share power outside of the criollo ranks, and his longstanding conviction that a criollo dictator was absolutely necessary to prevent non-whites from assuming power and creating a “pardocracia”–a government by and for the Casta? In other words, how well do the films portray Bolivar’s complex racism and authoritarian white supremacy that were fundamental parts of his ideological beliefs, military decision-making, and governing strategy? What is gained and lost in our understanding of Bolivar and the Latin American Revolutions he led by the way these films depict him?
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