Brief History of Colombia

catedral-santa-martaBrief History of Colombia

Before the arrival of Europeans to South America, the territory that is now Colombia was inhabited by various different aboriginal peoples who left an important ancestral and cultural heritage. The first incursions and explorations here by Europeans were led by the Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 who founded an ill-fated settlement in Uraba. In 1525 the first city in colonial Colombia was founded at Santa Marta followed in 1533 by Cartagena and then in 1538 Bacata (later renamed Bogota), the actual capital of the Muiscas confederation. at that time, was renamed to Bogotá. As part of the Spanish Empire Colombian lands were exploited in the search for gold, emeralds and salt and in order to fuel this insatiable consumption African slaves were introduced to till the land. From 1740 the Spanish viceroyalty was established in Bogotá and controlled the vast swathe of land now divided between Colombia, Ecuador, Panamá and Venezuela. Winds of discontent. Continue reading.

Spanish rule were evident from the Insurreccion de los Comuneros in 1781 and then on July 20, 1810 independence was declared although absolute independence was not achieved until 1819 after the Liberator of Northern South America Simon Bolivar, triumphed at the Battle of Boyacá.

The Republica de La Gran Colombia was declared and in 1826 the remnants of the Spanish crown were expelled for good. Simon Bolivar and his longtime ally Francisco de Paula Santander could not agree between Bolivar’s centralized politics and Santander’s desires for a Federalized state creating conflict between liberals and conservatives and leading to a civil war between 1840-1842. Between 1899 and 1903, Colombia was once again at war with itself in the Guerra de los Mil Dias. While Colombia’s economy improved in the early years of the 20th Century, Colombia was made to recognize Panama’s independence in 1914 for a one off payment of U$25 million from the United States. In 1930 for the first time since 1886 the Conservatives were no longer in power. Heralding a new era of bloodshed, on April 9 1948 liberal candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated in Bogota sparking citywide riots now referred to as the Bogotazo.

The dictatorship of Jorge Rojas Pinilla from 1953-1957 and was followed by a hegemonic decision to alternate power between Conservatives and Liberals. In 1964 the largest most powerful of the Guerrilla groups, the FARC was formed and over the past 5 decades has been fighting the state. Left wing guerrilla groups such as the FARC, ELN and M19 and rightwing paramilitary groups such as the AUC divvied up lucrative coca producing areas and almost led to Colombia being declared a failed state. Hardline conservative policies of former President Alvaro Uribe put paid to peace talks hosted by his predecessor President Andres Pastrana. Winning the elections by a vast majority in 2010 Juan Manuel Santos is the current president of Colombia, a nation now numbering more than 46 million people.

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