The Establishment of a Free Black Society in Veracruz
In 1570, Yanga freed himself from slavery and helped other enslaved Blacks to escape to the highlands near Veracruz, to create a free society there. The terrain and geographical position offered natural protection for the colony for 30 years, until the Spanish slave masters embarked on a campaign to bring the territory under its control. According the Wall Street Journal, the township still exists today, and in 1932, it was renamed Yanga in his honor.
The 1609 Attack
Yanga was allies with a former enslaved Black man from Angola named Francisco de la Matosa who also led a group of freed enslaved people. The two decided to work together to defend against Spanish aggression. Yanga sent peace terms to the Spanish promising to cease raids and helping other Africans escape slavery in return for autonomy. The Spanish rejected his terms and in 1609, they invaded the area with 500 men carrying firearms. Being too old by then to physically join the fight, Yanga had Matosa lead the charge of 100 freedom fighters armed with firearms, and about 400 more carrying machetes, bows and arrows, rocks and other crude weapons. Although the maroons were out-gunned, they knew the land and used the terrain to out maneuver and cause significant casualties to the Spanish.