NEXT July 24, the Colombian Navy will celebrate its bicentennial. It has been a long process of transferring the institution that has as its maximum inspiration the so-called “black admiral”, José Prudencio Padilla López, considered the greatest naval hero of the country of all time.
In fact, his career is recognized 227 years after he was shot, after being accused of participating in the “Septembrine Conspiracy”, when he was imprisoned in the Bogota dungeons.
The historian, writer and member of the Colombian Academy of Language, Antonio Cacua Prada, recalls that Padilla López was imprisoned for the uprising of officers in Cartagena who opposed signing a document in which they would confirm support for a constitution proposed by Simón Bolivar.
According to Cacua, “General Mariano Montilla had Padilla López captured at his home and sent him to Bogotá as a prisoner. Montilla hated him and was jealous of him.
The also member of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) explains “that the sailor held the rank of Division General and had nothing to do with the conspiracy against Bolívar, and he demonstrated it in the interrogations, but he was sentenced to death ”.
He added that “today they still wonder why Bolívar decided to put the only brown general to death, while the alleged leader of the conspiracy, General Santander, had his death sentence commuted and he was taken into exile.”
Hence, the historian concludes that Padilla was executed on October 2, 1828, “for a conspiracy that he did not direct.”
According to Cacua, after capital punishment was applied against those accused of participating in the plot, Bolívar wrote to Pedro Briceño Méndez regretting and confessing his remorse for this arbitrary sentence: “(…) I have not been able to disregard the opinion of the advice regarding a public enemy, whose punishment would have been reputed to be cruel revenge. I am sorry for the death of Piar (Manuel Carlos María Francisco Piar Gómez) and Padilla (José Prudencio Padilla López) and the others who have perished for the same cause; From now on there will be no justice to punish the most heinous murderer, because the life of Santander is the forgiveness of the most scandalous impunities. His crime will be purified in the crucible of anarchy, but what still torments me the most is the just clamor with which those of the class and Padilla will complain. They will say with more than justice that I have been in favor of that infamous white man, who did not have the services of those famous servants of the country. This makes me desperate, so I don’t know what to do with myself.”
History records that the Padillas, originally from Africa, arrived on the island of Santo Domingo from Spain, in search of a better life.
“Mr. Padilla had several children, among them Andrés Padilla, who took the risk of traveling to Riohacha to set up a small craft manufacturing workshop,” explained the academic.
He indicated that “in January 1772, Captain Bernardo Ruíz Noriega arrived in La Guajira, who founded the Villa de San Carlos de Pedraza. With him arrived the spouses Casimiro López and Florentina Luque. And, in that home, her only daughter, Lucía López, was born ”.
Cacua recounted that “the young Andrés Padilla did very well with his workshop, he met Lucía and married her in 1772. On March 19, 1784, their firstborn was born, whom they baptized with the name of his grandfather: José Prudencio. Then four more brothers came into the world.
The writer narrates that “José Prudencio helped build boats from a very young age, but he had to put up with his father’s bad temper and mistreatment. In 1798, when he was just 14 years old, he ran away from home.
According to the historian, the “young man in the first ship he found got hooked and was from the Spanish Navy of the New Kingdom. He worked as a Houseboy, clinging to that impetuous and reckless life. He did his internship in military training. Years later he returned to Cartagena a stocky man and a formidable gallant.
He recalled that “in the year 1803 he enlisted as a member of the Royal Spanish Navy on the ship San Juan Nepomuceno. On this ship, as Boatswain, he fought in the famous naval battle of Trafalgar on October 20, 1805. Nearby was the San Ildelfonso of the Spanish Navy, under the command of Captain Pablo Morillo, later known as El Pacificador. ”.
“British Admiral Horacio Nelson defeated the Franco-Spanish Navy in that battle. Padilla López and Morillo were taken prisoner. They shared three sad years on the same old ship that had been used by the English as a prisoner’s jail. This was the best university for the riohachero. During his imprisonment he learned English, ”Cacua recalls.
Padilla and the other prisoners were released when peace was signed between Spain and England. “The sailor returned to Spain in 1808 where he was received with honors for his actions at sea. He was appointed as Boatswain of the Cartagena de Indias station. Jubilant, he returned to his homeland. recounts the academic.
married and patriot
According to the historian, a few months later, Padilla López married Pabla Pérez, in the parish of the Santísima Trinidad in Cartagena. “The marriage vanished due to the numerous slips of the sailor. He faced a rampage in love passions, ”he recalls.
Padilla was one of the soldiers who on November 11, 1811 asked the State Government for the independence of the city. In 1814, after a powerful battle, he seized a royalist corvette, capturing 16 prisoners. For this combat the Government of Cartagena named him Lieutenant of Frigate. In 1815 he defended the city and later emigrated to Los Cayos, in Haiti.
The number member of the Royal Academy of Language narrates that “Bolívar was in exile in Jamaica and from there he organized the expedition on March 31, 1816, which Padilla López would join, who recorded the naval victory on May 2 Los Frailes, followed by the landing of Carúpano on June 1”.
While Bolívar returned to the island, Padilla López joined the troops of General Manuel Piar. The Liberator, at the conclusion of the second expedition financed by Haiti, ordered Admiral Luis Brión to capture Admiral Piar because he feared that he would lead a racial war.
Cacua Prada indicates that Padilla was in command of important expeditions between 1817 and 1819, in the Orinoco, in the Atlantic and in the Casanare campaign. On March 12, 1820, he took part in the capture of Riohacha and in the battles of Laguna Sala, Pueblo Viejo, Tenerife, La Barra, Ciénaga de Santa Marta and San Juan, among others.
Even the historian remembers that the officer was called by Bolívar as “the most important citizen of Colombia” for being one of the most prominent military figures of the time.
According to his different biographies, Padilla, also called “the black Admiral”, lived throughout his years the art of war that he learned on Spanish galleons. The feat of Independence in Colombia and Venezuela was sealed with his performance in the naval battle of Maracaibo, on July 24, 1823.
That is why it is considered that this officer left a very high legacy for all Colombian sailors and also shows why he is designated as the greatest naval hero in national history.
In fact, Cacua Prada emphasizes that “in November 1831 the New Granada Convention rehabilitated his memory on behalf of the Colombian people and for his liberating deed he deserves to have a privileged place in the pages of our history.”