Humanities › History & Culture Colombia's Independence Day Share Flipboard Email Print Luiscarlos/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain History & Culture Latin American History History Before Columbus Colonialism and Imperialism Caribbean History Central American History South American History Mexican History American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More Table of Contents Expand An Unhappy Population Pressure for Colombian Independence Conspiracies and Flower Vases Riot in Bogota Legacy of the July 20 Conspiracy Sources By Christopher Minster Professor of History and Literature Ph.D., Spanish, Ohio State University M.A., Spanish, University of Montana B.A., Spanish, Penn State University Christopher Minster, Ph.D., is a professor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. He is a former head writer at VIVA Travel Guides. our editorial process Christopher Minster Updated July 16, 2019 On July 20, 1810, Colombian patriots stirred the population of Bogotá into street protests against Spanish rule. The Viceroy, under pressure, was forced to agree to allow for a limited independence which later became permanent. Today, July 20 is celebrated in Colombia as Independence Day. An Unhappy Population The were numerous reasons for independence. The emperor Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain in 1808, imprisoned King Ferdinand VII, and put his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne, infuriating most of Spanish America. In 1809, New Granada politician Camilo Torres Tenorio wrote his famous Memorial de Agravios (“Remembrance of Offenses”) about repeated Spanish slights against Creoles—native-born descendants of early French, Spanish, and Portuguese settlers—who often could not hold high offices and whose trade was restricted. His sentiments were echoed by many. By 1810, the people of New Granada (now Colombia) were unhappy with Spanish rule. Pressure for Colombian Independence By July of 1810, the city of Bogota was a holdout for Spanish rule in the region. To the south, leading citizens of Quito had attempted to wrest control of their government from Spain in August of 1809: this revolt had been put down and the leaders were thrown in a dungeon. To the east, Caracas had declared provisional independence on April 19. Even within New Granada, there was pressure: the important seaside city of Cartagena had declared independence in May and other small towns and regions had followed suit. All eyes turned to Bogota, the seat of the Viceroy. Conspiracies and Flower Vases Bogota’s patriots had a plan. On the morning of the 20th, they would ask well-known Spanish merchant Joaquín Gonzalez Llorente to borrow a flower vase with which to adorn a table for a celebration in honor of Antonio Villavicencio, a well-known patriot sympathizer. It was assumed that Llorente, who had a reputation for irascibility, would refuse. His refusal would be the excuse to provoke a riot and force the Viceroy to hand power over to the Creoles. Meanwhile, Joaquín Camacho would go to the Viceregal palace and request an open council: the rebel leaders knew that this, too, would be refused. Camacho proceeded to the home of Viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón, where the petition for an open town meeting regarding independence was predictably denied. Meanwhile, Luís Rubio went to ask Llorente for the flower vase. By some accounts, he refused rudely, and by others, he declined politely, forcing the patriots to go to plan B, which was to antagonize him into saying something rude. Either Llorente obliged them or they made it up: it didn’t matter. Patriots ran through the streets of Bogota, claiming that both Amar y Borbón and Llorente had been rude. The population, already on edge, was easy to incite. Riot in Bogota The people of Bogota took to the streets to protest Spanish arrogance. The intervention of Bogota Mayor José Miguel Pey was necessary to save the skin of the unfortunate Llorente, who was attacked by a mob. Guided by patriots like José María Carbonell, the lower classes of Bogota made their way to the main square, where they loudly demanded an open town meeting to determine the future of the city and New Granada. Once the people were sufficiently stirred up, Carbonell then took some men and surrounded the local cavalry and infantry barracks, where the soldiers did not dare attack the unruly mob. Meanwhile, patriot leaders returned to Viceroy Amar y Borbón and tried to get him to consent to a peaceful solution: If he agreed to hold a town meeting to elect a local governing council, they would see to it that he would be part of the council. When Amar y Borbón hesitated, José Acevedo y Gómez made an impassioned speech to the angry crowd, directing them to the Royal Audience, where the Viceroy was meeting with the Creoles. With a mob at his doorstep, Amar y Borbón had no choice but to sign the act which permitted a local ruling council and eventually independence. Legacy of the July 20 Conspiracy Bogotá, like Quito and Caracas, formed a local ruling council which supposedly would rule until such time as Ferdinand VII was restored to power. In reality, it was the sort of measure that cannot be undone, and as such was the first official step on Colombia's path to freedom which would culminate in 1819 with the Battle of Boyacá and Simón Bolívar's triumphant entry into Bogotá. Viceroy Amar y Borbón was allowed to sit on the council for a while before being arrested. Even his wife was arrested, mostly to appease the wives of Creole leaders who detested her. Many of the patriots involved in the conspiracy, such as Carbonell, Camacho, and Torres, went on to become important leaders of Colombia over the next few years. Although Bogotá had followed Cartagena and other cities in rebellion against Spain, they did not unite. The next few years would be marked by such civil strife between the independent regions and cities that the era would become known as the "Patria Boba" which roughly translates as "Idiot Nation" or "Foolish Fatherland." It wasn't until Colombians began fighting the Spanish instead of one another that New Granada would continue on its path to freedom. Colombians are very patriotic and enjoy celebrating their Independence Day with feasts, traditional food, parades, and parties. Sources Bushnell, David. The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself. University of California Press, 1993.Harvey, Robert. Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2000.Lynch, John. The Spanish American Revolutions 1808-1826 New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986.Santos Molano, Enrique. Colombia día a día: una cronología de 15,000 años. Bogota: Planeta, 2009.Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars, Volume 1: The Age of the Caudillo 1791-1899 Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2003.