Colombian History Part 4
It’s been a few weeks since we last looked at Colombia’s history, and now we’ll continue to explore it. Colombia’s problems festered under Spanish rule until the early 1800’s, within a very racist, imperialistic, cruel, and godless society; fortunately, change was coming. Two enormous world events outside of South America and one very brave man inside of it worked to make independence a reality for Spain’s colonies.
Most Spanish colonial subjects did not think of independence as truly achievable until around the 1780’s. The idea of the New World becoming free from the European empires that dominated them was absolutely unfathomable… until someone did it in 1776. This was the first of the two seismic events outside of South American soil. Once the United States had successfully taken on the British Empire and gained their own independence, finalized in 1783, the idea became realistic for independence-minded subjects in Colombia, in Mexico, in Brazil, in the Caribbean…
Then in 1808, France persuaded Spain to sign the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau, which let French armies pass through Spain to get to Portugal. Spain betrayed Portugal by letting France conquer it. Napoleon, who was leading France at the time, then invited Spain’s weak king to visit him in Paris. Napoleon sent more troops through Spain to “reinforce” the garrison in Portugal… and then French troops hopped across the border from Portugal and overthrew the Spanish government. Spain suddenly was under the control of Napoleon—this was the second great world event that led to the Colombian revolution.
With Spain no longer exercising real control from Europe, the Spanish leaders of Colombia were left on their own. If the natives were restless, the Spanish now couldn’t put down the rebellion by calling for troops from overseas. On July 20, 1810, a group of Colombians in Bogotá declared independence.
It is one thing to declare independence. It is another thing to achieve it. A wealthy mixed-race man named Simón Bolívar became the intellectual and military leader of the revolution, guiding native forces to several impressive victories over the weakened Spanish empire. In 1815, he issued the Decree of War to the Death, whereby any Spaniard in rebel-held territories was subject to immediate death if they did not “cooperate … in the destruction of the intruding government of Spain”. By combining such a scorched-earth policy with a knack for excellent speeches and shrewd military tactics, Bolívar was able to secure Colombian independence. In the decisive battle of the war, Bolívar’s troops snuck from the jungles of south Venezuela across the Andes mountains to liberate Bogotá, defeating the ill-prepared Spanish forces before they could retreat to defend the city. By 1819, the Spanish were defeated all throughout northern South America and Colombia was free!
Yet, years after the Spanish were defeated, Bolívar famously lamented, “All who fought in the revolution have just plowed the sea.” He achieved fame unmatched in the continent, he won the war for independence… and yet he considered all that he desired to have been worthless. In future posts, we might show the earthly reasons for his disappointment. However, as Christians, we are already wise to the spiritual reasons. All men die, and what we accomplish here is vanity of vanities, like chasing the wind or plowing the sea. Bolívar saw that nothing, nothing done on earth stays forever or fulfills our hopes or desires. Only God can do that.
Latest posts by Matt Yeager (see all)
- Tell them about Christ - August 18, 2016
- Is it important for a missionary to speak the local language? - August 15, 2016
- I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also - August 11, 2016