November 27, 2022

Why is Colombia’s Independence celebrated on July 20? What happened in 1810?

Read Time:6 Minute, 34 Second


(CNN Spanish) — On July 20 in Colombia, Independence Day is commemorated due to a series of events that would start the Independence of the New Granada —as the set of provinces that today form the current Colombia was called— of the power of Spain.

Although more than 200 years later, July 20 is celebrated as a national date, many historians agree that this day in 1810 is only the beginning of a process that would end with the country’s independence and the birth of what is now Colombia decades later. .

With unusual secondary actors —such as Napoleon Bonaparte; José González Llorente, a merchant of Spanish origin, and a flower vase—Colombia began the path to independence more than two centuries ago.

Pantaleón Santamaría fight with González Llorente in the northeast corner of the Plaza Mayor today called Plaza de Bolívar. (Bogotá Archive)

The events of July 20

July 20 is a symbolic day of the Independence of Colombia, since it is considered that this day was the first in which what was then called New Granada, ended the Spanish colonization and when the cry of independence was given, for what this date is the most important patriotic celebration in the country today.

“It is the first time that we think of ourselves as a possible country. It is the first time that we think of ourselves politically, that we have an idea about ourselves,” says Colombian historian Diana Uribe on a podcast about the celebration of July 20.

Although Colombia’s Independence Day is celebrated on July 20, the truth is that the events that occurred on that day in 1810 are part of a process that began to take shape at the end of the 18th century, with the Revolution of the Comuneros. , and ended with the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830, says the Ministry of Culture.

To understand why this pro-independence feat took place, one must closely observe what was happening in the world at this time.

First, it should be noted that the Revolution of the Comuneros, which occurred in 1781, began as a protest against the rise in taxes, which Spain would use to pay for its participation in the war of independence from the United States, according to the historian David Bushnell in his book “Colombia: a nation despite itself” (Planeta, 1992). The comuneros created their own government, their own armed forces and generally assumed control of the situation, according to Bushnell. But they did not necessarily want the end of ties with the crown, but “the suspension of specific abuses”, such as taxes and the lack of equal access to public office, he explains.

On the other hand, in a society of Spaniards and Creole —as the children of Spaniards born in America were called—there was a lot of rivalry, between Creoles and Europeans.

“The rivalry included discrimination against criollos in the allocation of posts at high levels of the administration, discrimination in commercial matters, and contempt by haughty Spaniards for Americans, it became a fundamental source of discontent throughout the Americas. colonial territories,” Bushnell writes in his book. In addition, the author adds, by that time there was already a “disaffection” towards the Spanish crown for not allowing “expressions of political representation”, something that, according to him, “constituted a flagrant anachronism”.

The Napoleonic wars and the crisis in Spain

Then there are some important events that occurred in Spain in 1808. At that time, when the Napoleonic wars were raging, Napoléon I invaded Spain, deposed King Ferdinand VII and installed his brother in his place under the name of José I.

However, the result was not what Napoleon expected, Bushnell recounts, and instead there was “an outbreak of popular protests and the emergence of a resistance movement” that rejected the power that was eventually headed by a Central Junta. garrisoned in Seville, she stubbornly rejected José and maintained her allegiance to Ferdinand VII.

A French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon I forces a pass through the Spanish forces of General Benito de San Juan at the Sierra de Guadarrama pass that protects Madrid at the Battle of Somosierra during the Napoleonic Peninsular War on 30 November 1808 at the Somosierra pass, Segovia, Spain. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

With this chaos in Spain, where King Ferdinand VII was imprisoned, some cities of New Granada begin to form together to govern themselves due to the political situation in Europe.

“The disarray of the Spanish order is going to lead us to have to organize ourselves in another way,” says Diana Uribe, “because… when the king is imprisoned there is a resource called the Juntas, which are the sovereignty of the people, which is the remaining resource.

So, with a junta movement in several cities on the continent and the influence of the French Revolution, many considered that a junta movement was necessary in Santa Fe de Bogotá, which was the viceroyalty of New Granada.

July 20 and the “Vase of Llorente”

An anecdotal fight over an ornament known as “Llorente’s vase” has historically taken over the story of Colombia’s Independence.

It is said that the Independence of Colombia was caused by the fight over the loan of a vase, but it goes a little further.

July 20, 1810 was a Sunday, which was the day of the market when peasants and merchants gathered in the central square of Santa Fe de Bogotá, so the conspirators who wanted to break with the Spanish crown were looking for a way to generate a revolt. .

In a context of political turmoil, some Creole leaders of the time devised a political strategy to “provoke a limited and transitory disturbance of public order, seize power and vent the potential discontent that existed in Santafé against the Spanish audience”, says the Bogotá Archive.

So Antonio Morales, who was a member of the Santafé council and later one of the signers of Independence, proposed that a fight be provoked with a prominent merchant, Spaniard Jose Gonzalez Llorente.

The idea was to borrow a vase from González Llorente to decorate the table of a banquet in honor of Antonio Villavicencio, who was entrusted by the Spanish board to establish a local board in New Granada. The conspirators anticipated that Llorente was not going to lend the Vase and the revolution was armed.

“It is planned because it is time to provoke a movement, induce it, and one way can be to go to Llorente, ask him for the vase and calculate that he is not going to lend it. Wherever he lends it, there is a plan B,” says Diana Uribe, about the plan.

“In the case of a refusal”, says the Bogotá Archive, “the Morales brothers would proceed to attack the Spaniard.” So to guarantee the success of the plan, in the event that Llorente delivered the vase or politely refused, Francisco José de Caldas would stop by the warehouse and thus Morales would reproach him for using the word “escopetón”, which means enemy of the Americans, and thus start the incident.

“But the man (González Llorente) did his thing and did not lend it and effectively fulfills his role in the script: he does not lend the vase and the episode becomes the excuse he was looking for… and at that moment Camilo Torres and Jorge Tadeo Lozano to give the cry of independence,” says Uribe.

The uprising triggered the signing of the Santafé Independence Act. However, after that day, although there was an attempt at an independent republic, that country project failed to consolidate “due to internal problems and political differences” and it was only in 1819 that a military battle took place that finally consolidated independence, which is history. apart on August 7, the day of the Battle of Boyacá.



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