Bolivian History 101: The capitulation of Puerto Alonso

Luis S Crespo wrote in El Diario, January 24, 1923:

The capitulation of Puerto Alonso

Luis S CrespoAfter the founding of Puerto Alonso on the Acre River, the national delegate had issued measures to establish sovereignty in these remote regions. With the Decree of January 4, 1899 it was declared ‘open to merchant navigation of all nations who have friendship with Bolivia, the waterways of the rivers Aquri, Purus and Yaco, from the point in which customs and border controls were located by navigation’. It also ordered merchant vessels to change the flag of the nation to which they belonged by the Bolivian flag, from the moment in which entering Bolivian water.

This provision caused alarm in the Government and Brazilian people.

The Chancellor of that nation, Magalhaes Olyntho, sent to the Business Attache in Rio de Janeiro a brisk note claiming for such Bolivian Government Decree, which at first sight seemed to have Bolivian water, actually also legislated in Brazilian waters, by which proudly replied that the Government of Brazil would not allow foreign ships to navigate through its waters to Puerto Alonso.

Chargé d’affaires, Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, not opposed nor did the slightest argument to defend the Decree noted, and only repeated that it would seek reports and instructions from his Government.

Bolivia original sizeMeanwhile the Brazilian alarm had impacted with greater intensity in the States of Para and Amazonas, in whose capital, Bethlehem and Manaus, there were popular demonstrations; but especially bothered those adventurers who exploited the Bolivian rubber and smuggled it without blushing for those States. Brazil looked so reduced their income for the “transit” of the Bolivian rubber by its ports. [I include a map of our original size when we became independent]

Overlapping action of the Brazilian Government gave rise to its intervention in 1902, on the pretext, in addition, the proposal of Félix Avelino Aramayo to create an Anglo American society, the Bolivian Syndicate, that render the whole of Acre to Bolivia and would exploit it privately. Almost simultaneously the Cnel. Plácido Castro, declaring the secession of Acre rose in arms and intending to take Puerto Alonso, On October 14, 1902 commanded, coming from Caqueta, a small boat with five men who brought white flag. The delegate went down to the river and received them in the boat, Bolivia; they were carriers of a communication announcing an attack on the port, and offering that the ambulance service, was common to the wounded on both sides, in Caquetá hospitals…

The Chronicle of combat – collaboration by Dr. Leocadio Trigo, actor in the defense of the port – expresses:

“On the night of 14, most of the defenders of the port, slept in the trenches, holding their positions of combat…

On the morning of January 15, we saw against our positions raised the flags of the so-called revolution of the Acre, with the colors of yellow and green, with a red star at the Center.

Advanced Sentinel of the positions of the Cochabamba battalion discharged his rifle against the first men who saw to his forehead, and was the signal followed a violent and general circular attack, on all our positions. We argued with enthusiasm the attack. Possibly the enemy wanting to take advantage of the first time, loaded with extraordinary violence. In each of our position we were afraid for the fate of others, believing that they were perhaps raided, judging by the excessive intensity of the shooting. It was particularly against the positions of the third battalion that raging more combat. The initial desperate assault, which lasted about two hours, was happily dominated and withdrew the forces enemy, having suffered many casualties…

Is no doubt that the Cnel. Castro and his army had the purpose of entering port in this first push, with the superiority of his forces and his deep commitment to, and to find a resistance that overcame his desire, his disappointment must have been big…

On January 20, he fought with intensity, but our forces were exhausted. In the morning it hoisted the white flag delegation, proposed Parley, was accepted the proposition and was the firing suspended.

When Placido Castro knew that only has proposed a truce to bury the dead, instead of the desired accountability, he ordered to continue the attack. In this day and night we were attacked with anger and rage, but held us always putting stripe to the enemy. We arrived in the morning fighting.

But the food and munitions were exhausted,

In the morning a white flag in the delegation was raised… we capitulate!! The port was not taken, we remained at our posts, arms in hand, I think that we were not defeated. In a grayish, sad afternoon, we leave the port, and only then entered the enemies.

Source: El Diario, January 24, 1923.

It is sad to learn we lost half of our territory over the years… and we continue to stumble…

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