Colombian Independence Day

Andrew Macia - Colombian Independence Day

Colombian Independence day celebrations will never look like this. This was during the 2014 World Cup.

It’s July 20th and today we celebrate Colombia’s independence from Spain.

I got to Colombia (after a 29-year absence) in 2010. I remember being very excited my first July because I was ready for a big party on Colombian independence day, July 20th. I was used to the huge Colombian Festival in Los Angeles and imagined that celebrations here would be even better. I was very disappointed, to say the least.

Unfortunately, Colombians don’t celebrate independence the way gringos do the 4th of July; you will not find any out of control parties, largely attended parades or fireworks everywhere.

Colombian Independence Day History

When I was a kid (in SoCal) I’d finish doing my homework then my Colombian dad would have me do homework he’d assign me, which involved Colombian history. Most kids would have died from a double dose of homework, but I actually liked it and had fun reporting back to him what I had read when he got home from work at night.

Colombian independence history is long and bloody.

Colombian Creoles Were Fed Up

According to history, the Spanish were petulant and disdainful towards Colombian creoles (Colombian born patriots). Moreover, there were restrictions and limitations on trade and to governmental positions, they could hold. As a matter of fact, in 1809 a bright Colombian named Camilo Torres Tenorio (who was later captured by the Spanish in Buenaventura, Colombia and executed for treason) wrote the Memorial de Agravios (“Remembrance of Offenses”), in which he listed all the grievances Colombians had against their Spanish rulers.

By 1810, Caracas and Cartagena had declared independence from Spain, hence Bogota being the Spanish crown’s stronghold in the region. All this coupled with the fact that in 1808 (two years before) Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army had invaded Spain, captured their king, King Ferdinand VII, and imprisoned him, made for an opportune moment for the Colombian creoles to make a move for independence.

And that’s what they did.

Llorente's Flower Vase is on display in Bogota's Museo de la Independencia.

Llorente’s Flower Vase is on display in Bogota’s Museo de la Independencia.

The Flower Vase Drama

An interesting anecdote that has to be mentioned when talking about Colombian independence is the famed flower vase incident. It’s pretty much straight out of a telenovela (soap opera):

Colombian patriots in Bogota had a plan to incite their protest/revolution.

On the morning of July 20, 1810, Joaquin Camacho (a statesman, lawyer, journalist, professor and signer of the Colombian Act of Independence) went to the Viceregal palace (home of Viceroy Viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón) to petition for an open town meeting regarding independence. The petition was denied, of course, the patriots knew this would happen because they had petitioned times before with the same outcome.

As this was going on, a group of patriots headed by Luis de Rubio went to José González Llorente’s (a well known Spanish merchant) place of business to ask to borrow a vase to decorate a table for a celebration in honor of Colombian creole sympathizer Antonio Villavicencio. Of course, Llorente refused to let them borrow the vase, for he only sold items, plus he was a Spanish crown sympathizer, therefore would never let someone use his stuff for a celebration in honor of a creole sympathizer.

De Rubio and friends proceeded to break the vase and antagonize Llorente to the point where, by some accounts, he became defensive and rude. This commotion stirred up an angry mob, which almost lynched Llorente.

Some accounts also state that Viceroy Viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón was also rude in his denial of the petition to an open town meeting by Joaquin Camacho.

Subsequently, the people of Bogota took to the streets to protest Spanish arrogance. Guided by Colombian patriot leaders, one being José María Carbonell, the town’s people got to the main square, where they boisterously demanded an open town meeting to determine the future of the city and New Granada (Colombia).

Once the people were sufficiently riled up, Carbonell then took some men and surrounded the local Spanish cavalry and infantry barracks, where the soldiers did not dare attack the unruly mob.

At the same time, patriot leaders returned to Viceroy Amar y Borbón and talked to him about consenting to a peaceful resolution: 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.

Colombia Independence Signing

Colombia Independence Signing

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.

Why Colombian Independence Day Isn’t a Big Celebration in Colombia?

In my opinion, Colombian independence day isn’t celebrated with such gusto as U.S. independence for two main reasons. Firstly, although Bogota declared its independence at almost the same time as various other parts of the surrounding region they did not unite.

Secondly, the following years would be marred by civil conflict between independent regions and cities that the era is known as the “Patria Boba” which roughly translates as “Idiot Nation” or “Foolish Fatherland.” Furthermore, despite peace treaties having been signed between Colombia and rebel forces, one can still say that there is still internal conflict. This, together with the fact that the Colombian people do not trust the government (because of its corruption,) doesn’t really inspire fevered celebration.

Colombian Independence Day parade in Medellin

Colombian Independence Day armed forces parade in Medellin

Colombian Independence Day Celebrations in Medellin

I’ve lived in Medellin for nearly 10 years now and have yet to see any big parades or festivities in the city for independence day.

The 20th of July is a national holiday. Most people will have the day off from work. This year it lands on a Thursday.

What do people in Medellin do for independence day?

Due to COVID-19, we’re all locked up. Furthermore, the government has declared that from now “dry law” will be in effect on all public holidays.

Not only can we not go outside, but we can’t even buy drinks to endure the pain of having to be locked up with our loved ones!

Colombia World Cup 2014

I wish we celebrated Colombian independence day like we do when the Colombian National team scores a goal. Photo courtesy of Joel Duncan Photography.

Colombian Independence Day Outside of Colombia

Colombians outside of Colombia are more patriotic than those living in Colombia. Independence day celebrations outside of Colombia are amazing. My family and I would go, almost every year, to the Colombian Festival in Pico Rivera (Los Angeles), California. It’s a giant party with thousands of people, live bands from Colombia, DJ tents and lots of drinking and eating. It’s pretty awesome.

Because COVID fucked us all up this year, there aren’t many Colombian independence day festivals around the world.

Here are some of the Colombian Independence Day celebrations from the past:

San Jose, California – Colombian Independence Festival

San Diego, California – Fiesta de Independencia 2017

Chicago has the Colombian Fest Chicago

Pico Rivera, California – El Festival Colombian

Houston, Texas – Colombian Fest International

Orlando, Florida – Festival Colombiano de la Florida Central

Miami, Florida – MegaRumba Colombia

Denver, Colorado – Colombian Independence Day Festival

Boston, Massachusetts – Festival Colombiano Boston

New York, New York – Festival Orgullo Colombiano

Rhode Island – Colombian Independence Day parade

Pawtucket, Rhode Island – Colombian Independence Day festival and parade

Washington D.C. – International Colombian Festival

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada – Mississauga Latin Festival

Melbourne, Australia – Colombian Independence Day Festival

Brisbane, Australia – Colombian Independence Day Festival

Shoot it looks like it’s better to be anywhere else but in Colombia for a good Colombian Independence Day festival.

My parents still go to the Pico Rivera Colombian Festival…

Colombian Independence Day Festival in Los Angeles

Rocio and Julio Macia at the Colombian Festival in Los Angeles, 2016.

Make Comments and Suggestions Below

If you have any insight on parades or festivals in Medellin or the surrounding area, I’d love to include them. Also, if you are from another country and you have Colombian Independence Day festivals or parades I’d love to include those as well. Please leave a comment below.

Andrew Macia - I love Colombia

About the writer – Andrew Macia

Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz.  I run a digital marketing agency, and a non-profit organization here in Medellin.

I love Colombian, and Medellin has been my home since 2010.  I like to write and I want to give back to the community. This is the best way I know how. I hope you enjoy my blog!

About the Medellin Buzz

I started the Medellin Buzz as a resource for my English as a foreign language students. A site where they could read about their city in English, that wasn’t boring. It slowly turned into a personal blog and hub for information for people discovering Medellin. I check comments frequently, so feel free to leave your comment and/or questions below.