Monday, June 14, 2010

The Uncouth General Daza

Bolivian historians have bestowed on Hilarión Daza the epithet “el soldado mandón” (the imperious soldier). According to historian Humberto Vázquez Machicado, Daza was born in the constitutional capital of Sucre around 1840 the illegitimate son of an itinerant Italian snake-oil salesman named Grossolín. As a child, Daza had difficulty pronouncing his father’s surname, and from these attempts he received the ludicrous nickname of “Chocholín.” Not pleased, he started to use the surname of his mother.

Daza received his limited education on the tough streets of Sucre as a small-time crook and con artist and in the rough barracks of the army. He showed a talent for being in the right place at the right time and rapidly rose in the military ranks with Mariano Melgarejo, whom in the end he betrayed for 10,000 pesos. Daza was overthrown in 1879, while at the battlefront in Tacna, and headed for Europe. There, he lived the good life until the enormous fortune that he had pilfered became depleted. He returned to Bolivia intent on heading another military coup but was killed in 1894.

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