The Battle of Boyaca

The Battle of Boyaca by Martin Tovar y Tovar

On August 7th, we celebrate The Battle of Boyaca.

It never ceases to amaze me how people around the world don’t know about their own country’s history. I taught English in Medellin for 4 years to advanced level students at a private language school downtown.  Most of my students were university students and young professionals. Yet whenever I asked them why we had a day off they never seemed to know, nor really care.

Monday, August 7th is a national holiday.  On the days leading up to this holiday, I have questioned my paisa friends about it.  Most knew that the holiday was in commemoration of the battle of Boyaca, however, almost none of them could tell me anything about the battle or the Colombian revolutionary war.  So I did some research and found that it is a pretty cool story.

What is the Battle of Boyacá?

On August 7th, 1819 Colombian patriot forces faced Spanish royal forces in a two-hour long battle resulting in a decisive Republican victory leading to Colombia’s, Venezuela’s, Peru’s, Ecuador’s, and Bolivia’s independence.

The Spanish had the objective of moving forward into Santa Fe to take it over and establish the Royal command.  Simon Bolivar’s army was to hinder this plan at all costs.

Liberating troops were comprised of 2,850 soldiers, who were criollos, mulatos, mestizos, zambos, natives, afro-colombians, and British Legion soldiers. These troops were led by “The Liberator” Simon Bolivar.  FYI, Simon Bolivar was a grade A badass. If you don’t know anything about him, look him up.

The Spanish vanguard was made up of 2,670 Spanish soldiers and Venezuelan/Colombian loyalists.

The battle occurred 150 km from Bogotá in the Andes Mountains, in a place known as Casa de Teja, close to a bridge over the Teatinos River and 3 roads heading to Samaca, Motavita and Tunja, an area which is now part of the Boyacá Department.

The battle was hard fought by both sides, be that as it may, the patriot army had a leg up. The liberating army had unity and fast communication, whereas Spanish troops were incommunicado due to the Teatinos River separating them from the their base camp.

On the end Spanish Colonel José María Barreiro could not handle the quickness with which the patriot army surrounded his troops and was forced to surrender. He was quoted as describing the patriot army “like a ring of fire.” Colombian Colonel Francisco José de Paula Santander y Omaña was hailed “The Hero of Boyacá.”

Colonel Santander
Colonel Santander

The Royalist army suffered over 100 casualties, 150 injured, and 1,600 captured.

The Patriot army lost 13 and 53 were injured.

The Battle of Boyaca marked the end of a 77-day Liberation campaign. Nueva Granada (now Colombia) was established and new battles were to be faced across the following decades.

Boyaca Bridge is a historical monument.
Boyaca Bridge is a historical monument.

My friend Sergio pointed out, via Facebook, that this bridge is actually a replica, not the original. Thanks, Sergio!

Sergio comment about Battle of Boyaca

Boyaca Street in Downtown Medellin

When I was living in Downtown Medellin I noticed that one of the streets was called Calle Boyaca. Naturally, I assumed it was in homage to the famous battle. Thanks to an article that came out last year I now understand that this street was not named in honor of the great battle of Boyaca.

Instead, this street was already named Boyaca before the battle even happened. According to the architect and member of the Academia Antioqueña de Historia, Rafael Ortiz Arango, the street was a hub for the elite back in the early 1800’s.

Battle of Boyaca Holiday in Medellin

This year, the Battle of Boyaca holiday lands on a Tuesday. The day is a national holiday, therefore, most people will have the day off work.

The Feria de las Flores overshadows this holiday. Many people, especially tourists, will be attending events. As for the majority of Medellin locals, many take the whole weekend off and go out of town to visit family in surrounding pueblos. Most Paisas that I’ve met say that they just relax with family at home.

What to do?

Visit Pueblos – I personally love going to check out pueblos that are an hour or two away from Medellin.

For example, Santa Fe De Antioquia (google map) is a town north-east of Medellin, about an hour and a half away. It’s a hot weather town (hotter than Medellin), so there are nice hacienda-style hotels, with pools and restaurants. Santa Fe De Antioquia use to be the capital of Antioquia, so it’s full of history. Furthermore, the town has conserved the colonial-style architecture, which is pretty cool.

Go to Shopping Malls – Although many people have the day off, most stores in the malls will be open.

I personally like the Santafe Mall and the new Viva Envigado Mall. It’s fun to go with friends to eat lunch, people watch, maybe catch a movie, shop, and people watch.

Wear your Colombian soccer jersey – If you don’t have one, go get one! I don’t care if you don’t like soccer. If you love this country, show it by wearing the flag on your back.

FYI – You shouldn’t be paying more than $40,000 or $50,000 for a good replica. If you go downtown to El Hueco (google map) you can get replicas as cheap as $20,000. An original may cost you upwards of $190,000 pesos.

A Proud Patriot

Unfortunately, Colombia’s history is plagued by war.  To this day internal conflicts persist.  I believe that if we educate ourselves we will learn from our past mistakes.  Despite our violent past, I am proud to be Colombian; every day I hoist our beautiful yellow, blue and red flag outside my office.

Make Comments and Suggestions Below

If you have any insight on parades or festival in Medellin or the surrounding area, I’d love to include them. Please leave a comment below.

About the writer – Andrew Macia

Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz.  I am an advanced level English teacher, and I also run a digital marketing company 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.