The History of Colombian Independence 

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The History of Colombian Independence 

TLDR? The official date of the Colombian Independence is July 20th. That was the day when the Spaniard Jose Gonzalez Llorente said no to the request to borrow a vase, starting a monumental war.

After almost 300 years of conquest and colonization by the Spanish empire, the independence movement arrived in the “New Kingdom of Granada” in 1810.

However, there’s a whole lot more that goes into the story than just that.

July 20th marks a day to commemorate and celebrate Colombia’s cry of independence caused by a vase. Yes, you read that correctly!

Now keep reading and find out how it happened and why Colombians celebrate July 20th every year.

The Inspiration for the Independence of Colombia

The independence of American Creoles against the Spanish crown is related to other freedom fights. Its most direct inspirations were the independence of the United States and Haiti.

The French invasion of Spain was also an inspiration for these rebels who decided to take control of their territory.

At the same time, the struggle for independence raged across all of Latin America: Chile conquered its freedom in 1817 under the command of José de San Martín, and the event promoted pro-independence advances in the event known as the Spanish American Wars of Independence.

The Story of Colombian Independence

With tons of inspiration for independence raging around them, it’s no surprise that Colombia chose to launch its own independence effort.

Colombia achieved its complete independence only in 1819 under the command of Simon Bolivar. A campaign with Venezuela began a year earlier, which ended in the Battle of Boyaca on August 7th, 1819.

This closure gave way to the Angostura Congress and the birth of the current Republic of Colombia.

Of course, the independence movements began earlier, led by Antonio Nariño and Camilo Torres Tenorio. Antonio defended a centralized state model, and Camilo, a federalist one.

Here’s a simplified timeline of the events leading to Colombian independence:

  • 1810-1815: different wars between the defenders of the monarchy and the independentists.
  • 1811: Some provinces of Nueva Granada, as the Colombian territory was called, had been grouped as a new independent state, just like Cartagena.
  • 1816: After an agreement on the French invasion of Spain, Mr. Fernando VII’s troops were back to controlling the country and imposed the regime of terror led by Mr. Pablo Morillo.
  • 1819: The republican army led by Simon Bolivar crossed the mountains that separated the provinces of Casanare and Tunja. After the battles of Paya, Pantano de Vargas, and Puente de Boyaca, it found a free way to control Santa Fe.

The territory of the Viceroyalty of New Granada then became the Republic of Colombia, named after the navigator and discoverer of America Cristobal Colon. It remained in union with Ecuador and Venezuela until 1830, being left afterward with its current same.

However, many other regions such as Cartagena, Santa Marta, Riohacha, Pasto, and Popayan still struggled to achieve independence. In 1823, Admiral Padilla ended the threatening situation in the Caribbean with the naval battle of Lake Maracaibo, sealing the independence of Venezuela.

Why is Colombia’s Independence Celebrated on July 20th?

The official date of the celebration of independence is July 20th, but the liberation process lasted many years. We shouldn’t forget the many wars and sacrifices it meant.

July 20th is the date decreed by the National Congress of the United States of Colombia in 1873. It stands for the signing of the Act of the Revolution of 1810, which, as we saw, didn’t mean that Colombia as a whole was completely independent.

Therefore, the date changes in cities that took longer to become independent. In Cartagena, for example, independence is celebrated on November 11th.

The Significance of July 20th, 1810

The independence from the Spanish crown was a long time coming in Colombia.

In the early 1800s, there was a lot of unrest among the creole people living in Colombia. And, after reading Antonio Nariño’s translation and dissemination of the Rights of Man, the creoles began thinking about how they could separate from the Spanish government.

Everything came to a head with the Rebellion of the Communards. The rebellion used Antonio Nariño’s translation as a prologue for their rebellion, which was meant to expose their disagreements within the colonizing government.

However, the real reason that this day was so special has to do with a vase. Here’s the short version of the story.

The Story of The Vase

On July 20th, a man named Luis de Rubio approached the house of Jose Gonzalez Llorente, a Spaniard, and asked him to borrow a vase to decorate Mr. Antonio Villavicencio’s table.

Mr. Llorente answered him with a resounding and forceful no, causing the intervention of two other men: Francisco José de Caldas and Antonio Morales. They alerted the people to the insult committed by Llorente against the American people.

Llorente denied it, and the people crowded into Plaza Mayor and attacked the viceroyalty. The revolt initiated a revolutionary process that only ended with the signing of the Act of Independence of Santafe.

This movement wasn’t the only revolution carried out in Colombia. However, it marks the official date of independence as it gave way to intense freedom struggles against the Spanish crown.

Independence Day Celebrations in Colombia

Every July 20th is a public holiday in Colombia.

As a patriotic celebration, this day also recognizes miscegenation in cultural heritage and the contributions of indigenous and afro-descendant communities to this history.

In celebration, there are events in the country such as parades and displays of the Colombian Military Forces.

People usually hang the Colombian tricolor flag outside their house and wear the Colombian Soccer Team’s shirt.

During the pandemic, the celebration happened virtually through national channels with military presentations. Still, since freedom isn’t anything trifling to commemorate, the planes of the Colombian Air Force flew through some cities decorating the skies of Colombia!

The Colombian Bicentennial

In 2010 Colombia celebrated 200 years of independence and held many celebrations to commemorate the bicentennial.

Also, an urn sealed in 1910 to celebrate the first centenary of independence was opened, which contained important documents and photos of the time.

Educational and scientific exhibitions were held, such as the exhibition of the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada.

International channels such as History, NatGeo, and City TV from Bogota, together with the National University of Colombia, created a documentary to broadcast on July 20th, 2010.


The military parade with the president and the Great National Concert happened with the participation of some artists, such as paisa Juanes in Quibdo, Choco.

The Mayoralty from Bogota opened a space in the Plaza de Bolivar, a few meters from the Casa de Nariño, Colombia’s presidential house, for telling stories of the country.

In Corferias, there were exhibitions with typical gastronomy of the country. There was also contemporary and indigenous art, a cattle exhibition, and the Armed Forces of Colombia show.

Colombian Bicentennial Celebration in Other Countries

For the thousands of Colombians who live abroad, celebrating 200 years of their country was a must.

Countries such as the United States, Argentina, and the United Kingdom decided to participate in this celebration. It was an act to welcome the Colombians who lived there and a show of patriotism.

What’s more, the British Government celebrated different political figures from Colombia in the London Chamber. The British Parliament even hosted a special reception afterward.

The famous Argentinean Obelisk and New York’s Empire State were illuminated in yellow, blue, and red. These are the colors of the Colombian flag.

Even the Google doodle paid tribute to a free Colombia. What a beautiful detail!

Fireworks Shows

The City of Medellin celebrated 200 years of Independence with a musical show and fireworks.

The truth is that a fireworks show isn’t as regular an attraction on July 20th. That’s unlike when other countries celebrate their independence. In Colombia, it’s usually a little quieter.

However, for this date, no celebrations were spared.

The city closed several streets for the paisas who wanted to enjoy this patriotic and national show.

Even the metro system of this city joined the celebration and offered a discount for holders of the Civic Card, which wasn’t so common then.

Places in Colombia to Learn About the Country’s Independence

The many museums of Medellin give life to what made Colombia a free country over 200 years ago.

However, if you want to get a real feel for what the history of Colombia’s independence is all about, you should really visit Bogotá.

In Bogotá, you can check out these places:

  • National Museum: a building located in a colonial neighborhood of the capital. You will find objects and the history of independence: paintings, vessels, weapons, and even haircuts of famous people.
  • Bridge of Boyacá: a public place in Boyacá that’s a standing relic of the independence movement.
  • Casa del Florero: located in Bogotá, the Casa del Florero was the store of Jose Gonzales Llorente. It’s a place where you can learn more about key figures in the story of Colombia’s independence.

There are tons of other places that you can check out when it comes to exploring Colombia’s independence, too.

However, these are a few unique places in the country where you can learn a bit more about what made Colombia what it is today.

Celebrate the Independence of Colombia This Year!

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the independence of Colombia will celebrate its 212th anniversary outdoors! Colombians will adorn the neighborhoods and streets with flags as well as lots of yellow, blue, and red. Come celebrate freedom and enjoy Colombia’s contagious joy!

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