Miguel, I de Buría is Venezuela’s first and sole king of African descent. The formerly enslaved man was the ruler of Buría from 1552 to 1555.
Known as King Miguel and Miguel the Black, Miguel was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, around 1510. But he was transported to Venezuela by Damian del Barrio, an enslaver who gave Miguel to his son, Pedro del Barrio.
Miguel worked at a gold mine in the province of Yaracuy. A war broke out at the mine when Spanish foreman Diego Hernandez de Serpa attempted to punish him, causing Miguel to grab the foreman’s sword and engage in a fight. He managed to escape to the Cordillera de Merida mountains and gather a bunch of enslaved workers in the San Felipe Mines to start a rebellion where Miguel and the workers attacked the guards at the mine.
As an act of revenge, they captured some of the guards and killed the ones who were extremely cruel to them. After gaining control of the mine, the enslaved workers scattered all over Yaracuy to free the other enslaved people and return to the mountains for safety. He was deemed the king, making his wife the queen and son the prince.
Another war surfaced when the king predicted that the Spanish colonial government would try to attack his people. Pulling a page from other tribes, he led his soldiers against the Spanish colony at Nueva Segovia, painting their faces with a plant called genipa Americana as an intimidation tactic against the Spanish. Many died, and infrastructure burned due to the battle. It ended when King Miguel was killed in the war in 1555.
Following the battle, survivors of the fight were re-enslaved. The three-year war became one of the first wars against the Spanish colonial rule in Venezuela and all of Latin America.