Marcos Xiorro planned a slave revolt against plantation owners and Spanish Colonial government in Puerto Rico in 1821.
There are no records of Xiorro early childhood. It is known that Xiorro was a Bozal slave- he had been brought to the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico from Africa and was owned by Vicente Andino, a Militia Captain who owned a sugar plantation.
In 1812, the governor of Puerto Rico ordered that any slave who disrespected his master would be punished with 50 lashes by civil authorities and then they would be returned to their owners to be punished even more. If a slave committed a violent act or planned a rebellion it was 100 lashes.
During this time a false rumor began to spread on the plantations among the slaves. Ramón Power y Giralt was a Puerto Rican naval hero, a captain in the Spanish navy who had risen to become vice-president of the Spanish Cortes. Power Y Giralt was among the delegates who proposed that slavery be abolished in Puerto Rico. He sent a letter to his mother, Josefa Giralt, telling her that if the proposals on slavery were approved she should be one of the first to grant freedom to her slaves. However, the proposals were never discussed before the Spanish Courts but Giralt’s slaves heard about the letter and believed that slavery was over. The new spread quick that ‘slaves were free.’ The false news led to confrontations between slaves, their masters, and the military.
In July 1821, Xiorro planned and organized an uprising against the slave masters and the colonial government of Puerto Rico. This was to be carried out on July 27, during the festival celebrations for Santiago (St. James). The plan was that several slaves would escape from different plantations and go to the sugarcane fields to retrieve the weapons hidden prior to the revolt.
Xiorro, along with another slave from the McBean plantation named Mario and a slave named Narciso, would lead the slaves of Bayamón and Tao Baja and capture the city of Bayamón. They would then burn the city and kill those who were not black. After this, they would all unite with slaves from the adjoining towns of Rio Piedras, Guaynabo and Palo Seco.
However, the men didn’t think about the slaves who would remain loyal to their masters. One loyal slave by the name of ‘Ambrosio’ divulged the plans to his master, Miguel Figueres. Figueres then informed the mayor of Bayamón who mobilized 500 soldiers. The ringleaders and followers of the conspiracy were captured immediately. A total of 61 slaves were imprisoned in Bayamón and San Juan.
On August 15, 1821, 17 slave conspirators were charged. The ringleaders, Mario and Narciso, were executed, however, Xiorro who was captured in the city of Mayaguez on August 14, 1821, was tried separately but his fate is unknown.
On March 22, 1873, slavery was “abolished” in Puerto Rico on March 22, 1873, but with one significant catch: the slaves were not fully emancipated – they had to purchase their freedom at whatever price was set by their current owners.