Mariano Montilla was among the first supporters of independence, being present at the proclamation of independence for the state of Venezuela, in 1810. But this revolution, and the First Republic of Venezuela, were not long for the world. After a devastating earthquake in 1812 and a series of military defeats, the Republic was gone, and Montilla fled to the United States. In so doing, he escaped the worst of the violence that followed the Republic’s collapse.
But as Montilla stayed in exile, Bolívar began his “Admirable Campaign” to liberate Venezuela from the west, just as Mariño began his campaign in the east. Montilla returned and, despite having once fought for an independent Venezuela (as opposed to a united Gran Colombia), Montilla joined with the forces of Bolívar. Montilla fought in the defense of San Mateo, Ocumare, and Carabobo. He also led the defense of the city of Cartagena, but when the city fell, Montilla was forced – again – into exile in the north.
He returned again, this time to be placed at the head of an Irish contingent on the island of Margarita. From there, he led raids into royalist-occupied territory along the Caribbean coast, eventually fighting in yet another siege of Cartagena – this time on the besieger’s side and this time victorious.
After Independence, Montilla supported the Bolívarist wing of Gran Colombian politics. For this, he was yet again exiled and yet again returned, this time to support again and finally see the creation of an independent Venezuela. His body now sits in the highest place of honor in Caracas, in the National Pantheon of Venezuela.