WILLEMSTAD – A slave revolt took place in Curaçao on August 17, 1795 led by Tula, a local slave, and resulted in a month-long conflict on the island between escapees and the colonial government. This revolt was commemorated yesterday at the slave monument at Rif.
The western side of the island called Bandabou had between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants in 1795, mostly enslaved.
The slave Tula had been preparing the insurrection for some weeks. On the morning of August 17, 1795, at the Knip plantation of slave master Caspar Lodewijk van Uytrecht, Tula led an uprising of 40 to 50 people. The enslaved met on the square of the plantation and informed van Uytrecht they would no longer be his slaves. He told them to present their complaints to the lieutenant governor at Fort Amsterdam. They left and went from Knip to Lagun, where they freed 22 slaves from jail.
From Lagun, the liberators went to the sugar plantation of Santa Cruz, where they were joined by more rebels under Bastian Karpata. Tula then led the liberated people from farm to farm, freeing more people.
The slave owners had now retreated to the city, leaving their plantations unprotected. At the same time, a confederate French slave, Louis Mercier, led another group of freed slaves to Santa Cruz, where he took the commandant, van der Grijp, and ten of his mixed race soldiers as prisoners. Mercier also attacked Knip, where he freed more slaves and took some weapons. He then rejoined Tula, locating him by following the trail of destruction Tula had left behind.
The rebels began a guerrilla campaign, poisoning wells and stealing food. On September 19, Tula and Karpata were betrayed by a slave. They were taken prisoner, and the war was effectively over. (Louis Mercier had already been caught at Knip.) After Tula was captured, he was publicly tortured to death on October 3, 1795, almost seven weeks after the revolt began. Karpata, Louis Mercier and Pedro Wakao were also executed. In addition, many slaves had been massacred in the earlier repression. After the revolt had been crushed the white Curaçao government formulated rules that provided some rights to slaves on the island.
August 17 is celebrated each year to commemorate the beginning of the liberation struggle. When the race based system of slavery was finally abolished on the island in 1863, there were fewer than 7,000 slaves.
The commemoration took place at the monument dedicated to Tula and the rebels. This monument is located near the Holiday Beach Hotel. It is the site where Tula was executed.