A Brief History of Rionegro and the Surrounding Area

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The History of Rionegro

TLDR? Rionegro preserves tons of Colombian history — you’ll even be able to see conserved independence documents!

Rionegro is a municipality in the region of Antioquia, close to Medellin. When we talk about Rionegro, we think about the international airport, the city’s downtown, and all the little towns surrounding it.

However, what you may not know about Rionegro is it’s got so much history! I’ll tell you some of it to stir your curiosity, so you know your visit will be worth it.

The Name Rionegro

To know more about the name Rionegro, we have to go back to 1541, when Spanish Lieutenant Alvaro de Mendoza was exploring the Aburrá Valley under the orders of captain Jorge Robledo. 

The Lieutenant found a still-water river that crossed the jungle. Because its water was dark and gloomy, they named the river Rionegro: the Black River.

The nearby town received its name after this river: San Nicolas de Rionegro.

When the population of Arma moved into town, they asked the ecclesiastic authority to bring the venerated image of the Virgen del Rosario into the San Nicolas de Rionegro. This old image was donated by Magdalena Gómez de la Hortúa in 1699.

With this, the official name of Santiago de Arma de Rionegro came to be in 1783.

General History

Alvaro Mendonza found the Rionegro while exploring Valle de Aburá because his captain, the Spanish Jorge Robledo, heard the legend of Arbí and believed the area to be full of gold mines. 

Unfortunately for him, there was no gold, just the great valley that would later become the Ciudad de Santiago de Arma de Rionegro.

Later, the governor of Popayán, Sancho García del Espinar, donated some lands to Juan Daza, who became the first foreign owner of lands in Valle de Aburrá.  

In 1669, since the town’s population was growing so fast, the same Sancho García del Espinar wanted to build the church of San Nicolás de Rionegro. The first priest to start masses in town was Father Miguel Jerónimo de Montoya. 

The first known temple in Rionegro, built under the priest Blanco Vásquez, was a small hut with a thatched roof.

Ciudad Santiago de Arma de Rionegro

Rionegro’s also nicknamed Cuna de Libertad, which means Crib of Freedom. It was one of the most important cities during the shaking time of the Independence Wars.

So important, in fact, that the 1868 Constitution was written and signed in the historic House of the Convention in Rionegro!

The Ciudad Santiago de Arma de Rionegro was declared a national monument of Colombia in 1963.

Independence of Antioquia

During the 18th century, Antioquia was blooming with social movements. Among these, the community of Guarne stands out. The event happened from June 17th to July 16th, 1781, with more than 300 men with swords and machetes coming into Rionegro.

August 11th, 1811

To consolidate its autonomy as a local Government against the Spanish Regency, Antioquia proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. This was on August 11th in the year 1811.

March 21st, 1812

The Constitution of the Free State of Antioquia was proclaimed and signed in the Sacristy of the San Nicholas Cathedral in Rionegro with about nine representatives of Antioquia’s towns. 

This Cathedral is now The Museum of Religious Art, showing the place where the Constitution was signed, the papers, and replicas of the chairs and tables.

February 7th, 1813

The population of Rionegro proclaimed independence from the Spanish Crown and the figure of Ferdinand VII.

Later the same year, Juan del Corral was proclaimed dictator of the Free State of Antioquia, which led to the emergence of journalism, thanks to the first printing press in Antioquia. Francisco Jose de Caldas founded an artillery workshop for the House of Coin in Medellin that also made cannons and rifles to equip the Ejércitos de la Libertad, the Freedom armies.

August 28th, 1819

José Maria Córdova was made governor by Simon Bolivar and commanded the Batallón de Cazadores de Antioquia. 

That day, he arrived in Rionegro and named José Manuel Restrepo as the civil chef while he was in the military.

February 12th, 1820

Started the Combate de Chorros Blancos, a confrontation between the liberating groups and the Spanish royalist army, which consolidated the Independence of Antioquia.

February 3rd, 1863

After many years of calm and peace, the National Convention of Antonio Mendoza gathered. They issued a new Constitution, and the confederacy of the United States of Colombia saw it as a symbol of Liberal Thought.

Later the same year, a revolutionary movement commanded by General Jose Maria Gutierrez Echeverri started from the south and occupied the Plaza de Abejorral. 

Pasquali Bravo, the president of Antioquia at that time, attacked them on the hill of Cascajo on January 4th, 1864, but was then beaten and killed. This battle is known as the Battle of Cascajo.

Rionegro Nowadays

Rionegro’s one of the most significant cities in Antioquia today.

It generates tons of jobs thanks to the many industries and rich agriculture. One of the most famous examples is their internationally exported floriculture.

Rionegro’s known as a heritage city, and you can also see these pieces of history in the museums close to Rionegro’s central park. Check out the Museo de Arte Religioso, the Museo de Artes Mar and the Museo Histórico Casa de la Convención.

In the latter, the museum has actually conserved the country’s official independence papers!

The growing population, the economy, the industry, and the urbanization make this city a cultural place great for tourists. If you’re really wanting to learn more about the city’s history, be sure to check this place out.

Rionegro is One of The Most Important Cities in Colombia!

Just walking through Rionegro’s streets will make you feel more in touch with Colombia’s history. And, it’ll give you a better understanding of its people. Don’t miss the opportunity to dive even deeper into the beautiful region of Antioquia!

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