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Barcelona beyond the Seas: A Catalan Enclave in Colonial Venezuela

Abstract : The town of Barcelona in Venezuela, with a present population of nearly half a million inhabitants, is – by far – the most important New World settlement bearing the name of Catalonia’s capital. It owes its name to its founder, Joan Orpí i del Pou, also known as Juan de Orpín or Urpín (Piera, 1593 – Barcelona, Venezuela, 1645), who managed to distinguish himself as one of the last conquistadors within the territory of present-day Venezuela. This was no easy task since a Catalan was, technically, not allowed to reside or even to travel to lands under the exclusive control of the Crown of Castille and León. However, since its foundation in 1638, Nueva Barcelona del Cerro Santo was soon to become a sort of Catalan enclave in eastern Venezuela, particularly due to the influence of the Catalan Capuchin missionaries who, since the end of the 17th century on, used it as a base for inland penetration. Similarly, Venezuela’s Barcelona was one of the important trading posts for the Compañía de Comercio de Barcelona, following the latter’s foundation in 1755. A sizeable community of Catalan merchants ensured the town’s growth and prosperity at the turn of the 19th century. This community also fuelled a strong resistance against the independence movement from 1810 onwards, as Barcelona was to become a savagely disputed prey between royalist and patriot armies: the episode of the Casa Fuerte massacre in 1817 is still today remembered as a landmark of royalist cruelty, even though the revenge later exerted by the patriot troops in no way fell behind in terms of mercilessness. The Catalans were particularly singled out and, with few exceptions, were all either killed or forced to leave.
Keywords : Mondes Américains
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Submitted on : Monday, February 20, 2017 - 12:57:46 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 3:04:04 AM



Nikita Harwich. Barcelona beyond the Seas: A Catalan Enclave in Colonial Venezuela. European Review, 2017, 25 (1), pp.69-80. ⟨10.1017/S1062798716000326⟩. ⟨hal-01471890⟩



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