THIS DAY IN HISTORY: 16th March 1621 - Benkos Biohó, an African born in the region we now know as Guinea Bissau, who was taken as a slave to Columbia, was executed.
Arriving in Cartagena, Columbia, a Spanish colony in 1599, Biohó became the slave of Juan Gómez. Biohó rebelled against the mistreatment he and his fellow Africans experienced from his owner, eventually escaping with about 22 others, to establish a community of free Africans. The escaped African slaves became know locally as the Cimarrones and using guerilla tactics, they fought to free other Africans, and attacked Spanish interests.
Attempts to defeat the Cimarrones by the Spanish proved fruitless and in 1605 the Spanish Governor signed a peace treaty giving the community of Cimarrones the region which is now known as San Basilio de Palenque. It is thought that this was the first free territory occupied by Africans in the Americas.
With the arrival of a new Spanish Governor in 1621 hostilities recommenced and Biohó was eventually captured and hanged. The execution of Biohó sparked a war which lasted until 1691. The war eventually ended when the King of Spain intervened and conceded the right to freedom for all those born and living in San Basilio de Palenque.
Watch and enjoy this video clip about the people of San Basilio de Palenque, the first free community of Africans in the Americas: