J ohn (Juan) Galindo, 1802-1840, was the eldest son of Philemon
and Catherine (Gough). Apart from being with his parents nothing is known of his childhood
but he was certainly well educated being proficient in
several languages and a useful artist like his father. By 1818, when he was just 16, he was fighting in the South American wars
of Independence against the Spanish and later in the civil wars in Central America. It was here that duty
and travel provided him opportunity
to survey topography, examine archaeological sites, and observe native populations. As an
amateur diplomat he travelled to London to try and establish an English colony in BocaToro.
Given to self aggrandisement many of his writings need careful reading, for instance he describes his father as
'Governor of the Oriental department of Costarica'. Philemon's or
Philip's Diary page shows this to be far from the truth! Nevertheless he was a remarkable character
in exciting times.
There are many references to him on the internet, most of it brief and some wrong. For the Wikipedia entry click here,
but this site gives a lot more information drawn from family papers. Juan Galindo, aged about 33, in full Colonel's uniform
Apart from what can be gleaned from his father's story (see Philemon Galindo page) nothing
is known of Juan's childhood and education, but educated he certainly was. His story here begins in 1818.
Around 1838 Juan wrote a 'Memorandum on the Galindo Family'. To read the full original
click here, Much of this seems a bit fanciful but
he says this about himself: For myself I was scarce fifteen when I burned with the most
unconquerable desire to enroll myself in the ranks of American independence then hardly struggling
with European despotism though my parents restrained me with difficulty for some time; towards
the end of 1818 I first bore arms and served as a cornet of Lancers, in the glorious campayne
The earliest independent evidence supporting these claims can be found
in a document in the Colombian Archives addressed to The Minister of War.
Sr. Ministro de la Guerra
Juan Galindo, Inglés de la Nación, con su respeto dice que tomo servicio.... Not easy to decipher here
is the best translation so far: Mr Minister of War, Juan Galindo, an English citizen, affirms with all due respect
that he enrolled as a second-lieutenant of cavalry in November 1818, with the expedition to Colombia
sent from London by Mr J M Del Real, and he further affirms that he served with that expedition
until October 1819, at which time he was promoted to the rank of captain by the general: further,
that he sought last January the favour of the confirmation of his former rank and presented himself
at the Ministry of War each day in the expectation that his request might be processed...
(however, what transpired was the offer of) the post of second lieutenant in the infantry,
dated 12 February 1823, notwithstanding the fact that it would be four years and six months
since his entry into the service of the Republic: that the following reasons oblige him
respectfully to refuse this commission, namely that he has the impression that the government
continues to consider this matter and, in addition, that he is engaged upon a civilian career,
and that the commission being of short date, were he to accept it, he would find it impossible
to join the battalions to be sent to face the enemy, being without money, uniform or weapons.
He hopes that his renunciation of this commission will be favourably received in the spirit of
grace and justice.
This is accompanied by a certificate from del Real:
I certify that Señor Juan Galindo, of British origin, was enrolled in
London as a second-lieutenant in the regiment of lancers at the service
of New Granada, for the purpose of taking part in the expedition which
I, as envoy of the former Congress, prepared and entrusted to the
command of General MacGregor; that the said second-lieutenant Galindo
arrived on the brig Tarantula, one of the transport vessels for the
expedition, but upon his arrival and in view of the terrible
events at Portobelo, and General MacGregor's failure to give any orders
for the support of the officers aboard the Tarantula, all these officers
were obliged to disperse, including the said Galindo; and that during
recent months I have spoken to and communicated with this individual,
who has behaved in an exemplary manner, has willingly applied himself to
study, and who above all has shown unwavering dedication to the cause of
independence. In order that you may do whatever is necessary, I send you
this present communication from Bogota on 21 February 1823. Jose M del Real.
The letter to the War Minister and del Real's attestation appears to be an attempt
to claim back pay and to be reinstated in the Army. The following letter to the Morning Chronicle
sets the scene.
The timing suggests that Juan was attracted by this letter to make contact with
Del Real or General MacGregor and offer his services.
The brig Tarantula, 170 tons and armed with two guns, sailed from, probably, Gravesend in May 1819
carrying 35 officers, 65 other ranks, five women and one child.
The vessel arrived at Les Cayes,
in the Republic of Haiti, in late June. The troops aboard were supposedly part of the Army of
New Granada being assembled by MacGregor for a fresh assault in central America, where the Spaniards
had temporarily regained the upper hand. General MacGregor concocted a plan to attack Rio Hacha
on the north coast of New Granada and the ships Amelia, Alerta, and Lovely Ann
sailed from Les Cayes in Sept 27th 1819. The attack took place on October 5th and after a five hour fight
the defenders were driven out. Macgregor failed to take advantage of the situation and
foolishly rearmed the townspeople who rose against their captors. Some officers
could see what the situation was and deserted, those who remained were all killed.
Presumably Juan was either one of those who deserted or perhaps went direct from Aux Cayes to Margarita Island. Margarita Island had been held by the patriots for
some time and was used as a base for assembling battalions for expeditions on the mainland.Margarita Island
Continuing Juan's Memorandum
... After rising through the inferior grades I was promoted to a majority in Dec 1826.
Being wounded severley in the breast at the splendid victory of San Miguelito in March 1829,
where I commanded the Infantry, and where the enemy was eight times our number;
I received for this action the medal of St Michael from the president, General Morason, (sic)
with a pension for life, thereunto annexed, of 20 dollars per month; in the following April
I was brevetted a Lieutenant Colonel....
The Federal Republic of Central America, consisted of the present-day states of Guatemala, El Salvador,
Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, was formed in September 1823 with
Francisco Morázon head of state from 16 September 1830 (with a short break in 1834) until 1 February 1839.
Civil war broke out in 1826 (For the full story click here.
and the battle of San Miguelito took place in Guatemala where forces under Col. Pacheco were defeated
by those of General Morázon. This victory raised the morale of Morazán's men
and was a turning point in his campaign as his army grew larger when Guatemalan volunteers joined his ranks.
On March 12th 1829 his brother, Philemon Alfred, wrote to The Earl of Aberdeen, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
'... My brother who has been lately appointed by the general government of the Confederation of
Central America governor and military commandant of Stapa, a new port on the Pacific
(13°N, 90°W) having communicated to me some intelligence respecting the country which says
he may possibly be acceptable to the British government...' Navigation was not too accurate in those
days but this must be Puerto San Jose at 13° 56' N, 90° 49' W, not too far out!
.....During 1830 I commanded in chief, temporary, the troops of Central America,
and retired from this office to the government of the province of Peten,
with the full rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
I acted as chief of staff of the besieging forces of the citadel of Omoa,
where the flag of Spain was last displayed on this continent; this banner
I had the honour to replace with me own hands by the flag of the republic,
for which I received the brevet rank of Colonel......
From The Times Mar 11 1833 For easy reading click here
Omoa, Honduras, was founded in 1752 as a Spanish colonial town. There were two Spanish forts
(El Real, and San Fernando de Omoa) which would guard the bay.
Construction of El Real began in 1752 and was finished around 1756.
El Real was used to defend the port town while the much larger fort of San Fernando de Omoa
was built next to it. San Fernando de Omoa was finished around 1774.
This historic place had as its main purpose to protect against the pirates;
the silver cargoes originating from the mines of San Miguel of Tegucigalpa
that often left from Omoa to Spain.
With the Federal Republic established in 1823 it is
hard to believe that the Spanish remained there until 1832 but the letter shown sets the scene.
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost
department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size at 12,960 square miles (33,600 km2),
it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores. The Petén department is
bordered on the east by Belize and by Mexico on the north and west, with the Mexican state
of Chiapas to the west.
Much of the western border with Mexico is formed by the Usumacinta River and its
tributary the Salinas River.
After 1832, in the relative calm in the affairs of the new Federal Republic, Juan was able to
travel comprehensively around the country particularly in Petén where he was Governor.
An extremely effective and intelligent observer of the Mayan culture he deserves to be better known as one of the pioneers of Mayan archaeology.
He wrote several articles for learned bodies including the Literary Gazette,
the Royal Geographical Society,
the American Antiquarian Society and the Société de Géographie in Paris .
One of the first reports dated April 27th 1831 was ' On Palenque and other neighbouring places' sent to
the Société de Géographie. Not only does this contain a description of the ruins but
gives the Maya language version of The Lord's Prayer and the Creed. He was the first explorer to suggest that the Mayan
pyramids had been built by the contemporary Mayas' ancestors. Earlier explorers had always believed
that they had been created by peoples such as ancient Egyptians, Polynesians, or even the
Lost Tribes of Israel!
Palenque, located near the Usumacinta River in the
Mexican state of Chiapas, was a Maya city state that
flourished in the 7th century now a famous archaeological site attracting thousands of visitors. (Palenque is simply a Spanish term signifying
palisade or wooded enclosure. The ruins were named after a nearby village of that name.)
A second article dated 12th March 1832 ' Description of the River
Usamasinta' was followed in 1833 by ' Notice of the Caribs in Central America'
Finally on 9th May 1836 he read a paper ' On Central America ' to the Royal Geographical Society. After a general
discussion on the topography, flora and fauna this paper concentrates on Costa Rica.
From the Morning Chronicle 11 August 1836
Despite his humble beginnings he is now mixing with important figures and he must
have thought he had really made it to the top when later in 1836 he was
'presented' to the King in August.
Little known, King William IV was the third son of George III and was not expected to become King. 64 years old when
he ascended to the throne he only reigned from 1831 to 1837. With 10 illegitimate children, and no legal heir,
he was succeeded by his niece Victoria
As well as all this socializing Juan was trying to establish an
English Colony at Boca del Toro, presumably with the authority of the Supreme National
Government of the Federation The Government of the State of Costa Rica (a constituent part of the Federation) always denied knowledge of this enterprise, not only in a letter
to the would be Commandant, Philemon, (see Philip's Diary) but to Colombia as well. The following exchange of letters suggests that there may have
been more in it than meets the eye:
On the 23rd September 1836 the Governor of Veragua (part of Panama) wrote to the chief of the State of Costarica, to protest against the occupation of Boca del Toro
by Central American citizens as had been projected by the deceased Colonel Galindo and announcing that the place would
immediately be taken possession of by a competent force....
The reply from San Jose claims that the Bay of Bocatoro and the islands within it belonged to Central America but that
....this Government has not a full and perfect knowledge of the nature of the commission conferred by the Supreme National Government
on Colonel Galindo who is the individual that has formed in London a colonization company,
and in this view has sent an agent to Boca Toro.... To read the full letter click here.
Colombia evidently thought Juan was dead but this is incorrect.
By 1838 the Federation was breaking up with Guatemala's General Carrera instrumental
in leading the revolt against the federal government and breaking apart the Union.
The liberal forces of Morazán, including Juan, invaded Guatemala and defeated Carrera at Villanueva
where Juan was injured. The victory was short lived and Carrera decisively defeated Morazán in April 1840.
For a full account of these times click here
In a letter to his sister Sarah dated 14th June 1839 Juan says ' I am engaged to be married
to Dolores daughter of Don Leocadio Asturias of Guatemala a private gentleman of large and
independent property. There is considerable difficulty on the part of the parents from their
fear I may take away their daughter to Europe. My Dolores was born on the 18th of December 1819
I have known her since she was a child; she is very tall and her figure and carriage have
not their equal in all Europe and America; her features are not so good, though her eyes,
forehead & hair are superb; the latter is of a lighter color than mine. Her hands are
exquisitely beautiful. In character she is extremely proud & reserved, she dances with
tolerable grace & plays on the piano.' This is María Dolores Expectación del Corazón
de Jesús Asturias Pavón 1819 - 1897. Not a name easily remembered! She never married, perhaps Juan was the love of her life.
In supporting General Morazán to the end Juan had chosen the wrong side. Guatemala after the Carrera insurrection was a
dangerous place for Morazán supporters.
At a time when he should have been enjoying
Dolores and public acclaim Juan was recognized whilst passing through a village with two dragoons and a servant,
all were massacred. He was just 38 years old.