All About Colombia Independence Day

Colombia Independence Day

July 20, 1810

The event that sparked Colombia's revolt against Spanish rule was the mere smashing of a flower vase. Well, maybe not, but that's the story told to Colombian schoolchildren when they learn about their country's independence. Independence Day commemorates the date of the 'flower vase incident' (el florero de Llorente), July 20, 1810, when the independence movement supposedly began. 

Growing tension

In the early 1800s, tension was growing between the Spanish monarchy and its American colonies.  Spain could not meet trade demands, banned criollos (locally-born South Americans with Spanish heritage) from public administration and was raising taxes. On the morning of July 20, criollo Luis Rubio asked to borrow a vase from Spanish merchant José González Llorente, for a dinner party with a visiting royal commissioner. After Llorente predictably refused, the criollos smashed the vase and a planned revolt ensued.Nine years later - on August 7, 1819 - the Freedom Army, led by Simon Bolivar, won the Battle of Boyaca against Spain, and Colombia was finally free from colonial rule. 

According to historian Nicolas Pernett, the 'flower vase incident' may be not have been as pivotal as it is now remembered - there were numerous protests and rebellions against Spanish rule around that time. Spanish Adventure's Camilo said Colombian school students are usually just given a brief history of their country's independence, focused on the vase incident. "Obviously there is more context, but that's something that you are not taught in the school. You are taught that everything happened for a vase," he said. 

Know your history

Spanish Adventure has organized a movie night and history forum to commemorate Independence Day. "We want to talk about the real story of independence, a bit about the history of the country," Camilo said. "I read once that a person who doesn't know his history is destined to repeat it again and again." Camilo said the forum was also an opportunity to discuss Colombia’s modern-day identity. “Some people say that we are still not independent, we are dependent on other countries, like the USA,” he said.

After Colombia gained independence, Gran Colombia was established - a huge state encompassing modern-day Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador and parts of Peru, Guyana and Brazil. "The dream of Bolivar was... he wanted a big country in the south that could compete with the supremacy of the USA," Camilo said. The dream was soon dashed - within 12 years, political differences meant Venezuela and Ecuador had separated from Colombia. Panama did not separate from Colombia until 1903.