How to sow the seeds of a revolution (History of Colombia: Part 3)
Colombia was under Spanish rule from about the year 1537 through to 1822, when the revolution led by Simón Bolívar led to Colombian independence. Spanish conquistadores overthrew countless civilizations, including the Muiscas, slaughtering hundreds of thousands and enslaving the survivors. Life for those three centuries was difficult for Colombians—the Spanish were oppressive, cruel, and bearers of diseases that wreaked havoc on the native populations. They took the native wealth of Colombia and brought it back to Spain to finance their king’s cathedrals and religious wars.
“Colombia” as we know it now did not really exist in those days. Instead, the three main Spanish viceroyalties were ruled from various cities scattered throughout the Spanish colonial possessions, which stretched from the southern tip of Argentina all the way to Oregon! Eventually, a Viceroyalty (basically a sub-kingdom) of New Granada covered modern-day Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, and even some parts of Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, and Suriname. All of these lands were ruled by European governors in Bogotá—yes, that Bogotá, the same one that still is the capital of modern Colombia.
The Spanish mistreated the natives, yes, but Spanish men also frequently intermarried with native women, creating the mixed-race mestizos. The Spanish also brought African slaves into their colonial territories, and the Africans were treated worse than the native Indians! In fact, the Spanish created a racially stratified system of castes—children were put into a caste based on the racial makeup of their parents, with native (white) Spaniards at the top, then whites born in the New World, then mestizos (the whiter mestizos having more rights), then full-blooded natives, then white-black offspring, then Indian-black offspring, and finally with blacks having the fewest rights. The color of your skin and who your parents were determined your level of rights, the taxes you paid (whites paid less), and even the amount of money the Catholic church expected you to pay in tribute.
The quality of life of an average Colombian was extremely poor during these centuries. Growing up in America, we might hear about the “tyrannical” rule of Great Britain over her American colonies, but trust me—the white Americans had nothing to complain about, compared to how Colombians were treated. (Blacks and Native Americans in the Thirteen Colonies, of course, had a different story.) Colombians were suffering profoundly, having their natural resources taken by their colonial masters and being victimized by a racial classification system that instilled feelings of inferiority among the most vulnerable.
Inside nearly everyone’s heart, we find a desire for freedom placed in us by God when he created us. This yearning to be free finds its ultimate satisfaction in the freedom we find through Christ Jesus our Lord, but even on an earthly level, people want to be free. Eventually that desire led to Colombian independence on a diplomatic level—but Colombians are still waiting and yearning, though they may not realize it, to be spiritually free. Will you join me in praying for them, for our missionaries there, and for God to raise up more workers for the harvest?
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