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Wilderness Talamanca

Pablo Presbere’s Rebelion in 1709

Gabriela Villalobos
Historian, Anthropology and History Department
National Museum of Costa Rica

Talamanca was never conquered; their indigenes always resisted the Spanish yoke, which is why this indigene community still remains in our country.

One of the most important fights was Pablo Presbere’s rebellion in 1709.  It was motivated by the missioner movement of the last decades in the XVII century, around 1694 when Franciscan Fray Pablo de Rebullida came into the region.

Some indigenes went under the missionary’s control because they wanted protection against the English pirates and the Misquitos, other than the fact that missionaries had to give axes and knives to the indigenes to baptize them.  Christianity was supported by the soldiers despite the fact that evangelization was not successful, one of the reasons of the 1709 rebellion.  With the support of the governor, Rebullida and Fray Antonio Andrade decided to mass move the community from the Caribbean to Boruca in the Pacific, since the indigenes refused to leave the mountains.

On September 28th, 1709, there was a riot in which 10.000 indigenes participated.  They were led by Pablo Presbere, cacique of Suinsí.  His leadership was more linked to his religious power, rather than to his warrior side.  Another important leader was the Cabécar cacique Comesala.

Fray Pablo de Rebullida, 10 soldiers and a woman were killed in the riot.  The Cabécar, Urinama and Chirripó missionary reductions were destroyed, along with 13 chapels, the convent houses and the lobbies of the towns.  The indigenes went all the way to Tuis, 50 km away from Cartago.

The Spanish repression to Presbere´s rebellion was very tough.  Granda and Balbín’s governor, who had tortured several Pacaca indigenes, organized a 200 soldier troop.  His objective was to repress the indigenes and to minimize the lack of working forces in Cartago.

700 indigenes were captured, including Presbere.  500 of those indigenes made it to Cartago, and were sorted among officers, soldiers and the Cartago elite.  Only 200 indigenes survived nine years later.  The price of resisting to the Spanish domain had to be paid by the rebellion’s leader in the following way:

 “...I rule that I condemn Pablo Presbere to be taken out of his room, to be placed on a pack-saddle animal and to be taken around the city, screaming and declaring his crime, tied to a stick, blindfolded and killed by cutting his head, which will be placed high so everyone would see it...”Criminal case against Pablo Presbere, 1710.

Images: Figueroa Album, XIX century, National Archive of Costa Rica.